[hover over red links for the ancient meanings of place names or their modern equivalents]
Half-remembered place names like half a song of lyrics
– with this roll-call, will they manifest their magic?
conjure spells from spelling? And though still there on the map
many are changed places, yet all the immaterial events
still cling like sticky buds on socks; insects in amber.
It must have been Brean where dreams were first ingrained
in sea sodden sand, mud at low tide and a hill of sorts
– we chased down dragons amongst Brythonic dunes.
At Men Ebeli which was once the stone of colts
they jumped Cornubian outcrops like foals and were foamed away
fast as the tongue can roll under waves to murmur: Menabilly
but the pools stayed, almost still, wafting broad kelp shields
over see-through shrimps and jelly blob abominations
and up in the grass at Gribbin Head lolling like topsy-turvy gulls
arms akimbo – til a wasp sting felled me to earth.
Ancient Britons found a stronghold by the alder grove
taken in turns by Celt and Jute – then Romans called it Cantiacorum
Kent’s cathedral city in the Eden of England
knee capped in snow or petal blossom, hedge stretched for nests
and pinetop pinnacles to clamber for the feathery flypasts
orchards ripened with damson plums, goblet-shaped for gobblers
early apples pitted by worm or teethmarks trialling sweetness
and just a skip and hop from this Pilgrim orb, the salty bays
splayed out north and east from shingled Herne to Sandwich
with ample sand to grit crab teas and buttered bread.
Marble-mouthed and staccato sharp the Anglo-Saxon tongue
and like these Nor’folk we wended there to Esnuterle
then to Heacham where wild duck hunters greased their guns
and grapeshot from the ripening gorse was fired in hot Septembers
but once I’d heard the blast of horn in Sutton Hoo
I settled for Wudubrycg like a pre-loved wooden houseboat
sinking dignity into decay, with contentment in the creek
and long-legged waders piping to the wind that’s always heading west.