Haweswater (2015)

At the top of the path a pair of roofless ruins

bear witness over lost Mardale,

submerged, silent, a place of beauty still.

Only the sterile bleached margin,

an unnatural tide mark of metamorphic slate,

provides a clue to its conflicted past.


Looking down on this valley of ghosts,

overwhelmed by corporate need,

shambling with lost souls across the old corpse road,

there is nothing left to connect the lost and the dead,

nothing to remember the past and the dread,

beyond this new infrastructure and purpose.


Until ’36 they carried those dead, winter and summer,

from Mardale Green to Swindale Head.

Two centuries on, the Manchester men,

armed with statute law and purchase orders,

exhumed the massed generations of bones

and forced them to make the journey again.


We know where the long dead bodies are buried

and how the relics are proudly trophied,

like the fragments of stained glass

that now oversee daily extraction

and remember the one-time bone filled cavities

that were the first to be flooded.


Like water the past has been purified,

history manipulated to fit today’s mission statement,

whilst what remains of former life is petrified;

old bones excavated and reinterred,

old stones dismantled and then dispersed

leaving behind no shrine, no focus for discontent.

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