Salt of the earth / by Alex Williamson


My kin come from labouring stock:

Bricklayers, farmers, potters made good,

Kiln-stokers, Herdsmen, keepers of the flame.


I was the first to go out into the world,

To take a different mortarboard in my hand,

Though my life feels more limited now,


Being borne of books. Not for me 

The diurnal life: the soil, the seasons,

The sun, the earth. I’ve taken my heirs’


Telluric inheritance, made of myself,

In this realm of words, a straw man,

For going against the grain of things.


My kin knit closer than cross-stitch.

They’re brickwork on a chimney-breast,

Its hearthstone lit by filial warmth.


I envy their muddy boots and 4x4s,

Their ruddy-faced Cath Kidson kids.

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


I feel it sharply when our paths collide,

When proximity necessitates we reach out

With a familiar smile, loose embrace,


Or fumbled handshake. Choosing the last,

When we part without a backward glance,

As if protecting ourselves from later grief,


Is this the product of the supposed belief

That distance breeds not distance, but love?

Difficult to know. Harder to broach.