The Road to Witcombe Water

As she passed the white hemlock weeds
that crowded the verges beneath the wires
from the Old Exchange, my mother left
her footprints remembered by the gravel,
dusty tracks by the lichgate, fifty years
by the weathered, yellow stones.

In golden evening light, the old leaves
talked; too-distant on the dry south wind
like the voices of children at play, still,
in elder trees and pale dancing flowers.
Rooted deep, too deep among the dead.
lingering in the summer-dayโ€™s heat;

tempted from supper, from home, from mothers
by the cathedral woods and bright-noon glitter.
By the long sky-spire of rock-work temples
and castle-trees grown tall.
So late we stayed, we have faded thin
as shadow in the flood of passing light.

I step back through the arch again and watch
the wild bats chase through the purple dusk;
night, lithe in its racing flesh.
The ghost of an owl falls, silent and soft
through blueing air, then rises; afloat
on the endless turn of the star filled tide.



Oliver Smith holds a PhD in Literary and Critical Studies. He has been published widely including inย  Abyss & Apex, Alchemy Spoon, Liminality, Riddled with Arrows, Rivet,ย  Strange Horizons, and Sylvia Magazine. He was nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prize.ย  Website