I recently found inspiration from a story told to me by a local woman, about her father. After his application to join the forces, at the outset of World War Two, was rejected for reasons of invalidity, he and his wife ended up living a life of subsistence on the edge of the moors a short way up the road from here, near a place, which is one of our favourite local walks. She told me that her father had laid claim to an MOD Nissen hut, abandoned after the First World War, which provided a base for them to scratch a living. Some of the stories she told us of her father, revealed an unusual perspective of wartime life. He told her of the need for the long time tenants to vacate the old farm, the ruins of which lie just below the horizon in the photograph, which was then used as target practice for tanks sitting on the reservoir’s damn. This farm is named ‘North America’, seemingly because its last tenants emigrated to North America.
Her father told of watching the surreal images of the glow of fires burning from bombing raids on Sheffield, ten miles to the South West and of the German bombers circling above to take another run at the city, as well as the occasional bomber crashing on the moors. One such crash produced a surprising result, when her father went up onto the moors to investigate, he returned with a German officer, who claimed he never wanted to be a part of the war and pleaded with her parents to allow him to stay and work for them, incognito. They did this for him, until the authorities found out and came to take the reluctant German officer away. The stones that lie amidst the ruins of what was once a healthy moorland farming community, if they could speak to us now, would tell one hell of a tale of human history.
What life there was around these stones when they
relate their story; most of it to tell
of shallow graves that churned to deafen men,
that scoured their souls and took them off to hell.
A far-off high command, then turned to those,
whose livelihood lay barren on the moors,
who toiled their flesh to bone, and on their clothes
the mud that turned to blood beyond these shores.
And if you wake to sounds that beat your drums
with shock and awe, expunging breath like skeet,
recalling tales your father told, the thrums
of flying ordnance, far off orange heat.
That piercing distant flaming glow that looks
so harmless in the stillness of the night;
that gave him time to listen, as he brooks
a merlin’s prey befalling nature’s plight.
His art, tattooed upon his weathered face,
like scars upon the Langsett landscape, where
your story lies beneath; but save this place;
these stones have memories, and tears to spare.
Across the water, calm reflects the shapes
in space that stretches to infinity;
a universe that sees these human apes
pass through in a micro-blink. Sublimity.
Poem and Photo © 2014, John Anstie, All rights reserved
JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).
John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising“. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.
* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.