Salt of the earth


My kin come from labouring stock:

Bricklayers, farmers, potters made good,

Herdsmen, kiln-stokers, keepers of the flame.


I was the first to go out into the world,

To take another mortarboard in my hand,

Though my life is the more limited now


For being borne by books. Not for me 

The diurnal life: the soil, the seasons,

The sun, the rain. I’ve taken from my heirs


Their telluric inheritance, kept for myself,

In this realm of words, slim possibilities,

Shattered dreams and vaunted ambitions.


My kin knit closer than cross-stitch,

Like brickwork on a chimney-breast

Or a montage framed by filial warmth.


I envy their muddy boots and 4x4s,

Their ruddy-faced Cath Kidson kids.

Their far-from-the-madding-crowd ways.


I feel it sharply when our paths elide,

And the given moment divides itself

Into a lasting embrace, hesitant smile,


Or swift handshake. Choosing the last,

We part without a backward glance,

As if reserving it for later, greater grief.


Or is this the sum of misplaced belief:

That distance breeds not distance

But love? Difficult to know. Harder to say.