Making for Open Country

Selima Hill

I step into the autumn morning
like a first Communicant
and ride off down the lane,
Across the frosty fields
someone is mending fences
knock knock knock
and a twig that’s caught
in my bicycle spokes
tinkles like a musical box.
The village smells of wood-ash
and warm horses.
Shining crows rise
into the sky like hymns ...

I have to pass the church
where my father was buried.
It’s a wonderful church.
The Christ in the chancel
is carved by Eric Gill.
There are guidebooks in the nave,
and every day the villagers come
to put fresh flowers
on the graves. My father’s
is under the yew tree
by the wall. I look at it
out of the corner of my eye
as I go cycling past,
making for open country ...

We didn’t go this way
after the funeral –
my mother and me,
and my sad unfamiliar aunts
crying and crying
for their lost brother.
In hired cars,
we went straight home,
where some kind person
had made us tea
and tiny sandwiches.
They were like pocket handkerchiefs.
Pat, pat, pat ... My father
used to dry my tears like that.