The Longhouse

The Renault rocks left to right, waddles up an unmade road, squeezes through the trees. Now I see it – a low-slung, stocky, lengthy, extended longère and, at right angles, ancient barns remodelled with stone, glass, wood. My hosts point to a date on a lintel, a roof glinting miles away, surmise a castle stood here once. Stood as we are at the centre of the enclosure, our gaze finds hills, valleys, an estuary. Le petit tour takes in their orchard – they name every apple, peach, pear, show me chestnut and walnut trees, artichokes and squash, feed me baby tomatoes, blackberries, purple grapes from vines draped over picture windows.

I’m pulled back to another longhouse where my mother kept returning, where I was left – dank, a sloping dirt floor, piglets scrabbling in a tea chest by the range, dusty balloons still strung up in August, a caged budgie, a dog lying at the door, the people shadowy, mute.

My hosts identify Buckie rose, honeysuckle, dahlia, nasturtium and sweet pea. They fill me with Japanese tea, send me off with sablons, wish me come back stay with them in paradis.

On the train, a heaviness – the weight of the longhouse, sunk in generations of layered soil, the compacted squat of it, its lowered eyes, as if asleep, holding all its secrets, keeping quiet.



Siobhan Ward lives in London. Poems have been commended in competitions, most recently the Ver Competition 2023 and Oxford Poetry Library TASTE Competition 2024. Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Porridge, B O D Y, The Cannon’s Mouth, Wildfire Words and Dreich.