Mothers of the Ancient Moor
Like the standing-stones stretched out endlessly along Merrivale row
my mother’s mothers are long in a line of moor daughters.
They are lost, but I find them everywhere.
I am the last of the line.
I know five others, grandmothers before me –
I’ve tried to disentangle, follow the thread,
discover one long-gone before.
This day of pilgrimage on a stretch of moorland’s green –
my quest to come upon a sign, delicate relic, or curio – say
cameo-brooch set in moss, or yellowed lace-frill from a gown
snagged in a jagged crack in reave’s wall.
No, they’ve not made the archival papers of history books,
or written their lives into the stitches of our past’s celebrated female dramas, nor have I found any mitochondrial mother who has wandered the exotic globe.
Mine were silent.
Reclusive mothers of the ancient moor,
each found a niche inside the shelter of a granite shelf,
a closet cocooned with moss or fern,
there she cosseted, shielded her extended brood.
She tended her land.
Except for one who always stayed,
she sent them and theirs flying out and across her ex-tending lands.
Multiply, go out and multiply, she said
and when, like Dido, she was laid in earth
the one who stayed inherited her place
discovered her own rock-sheltered harbour.
I went down into the deepest woods
to listen to the wisdom of the trees
and stumbled upon the other poets collecting berries,
they were tripping over the intricate hypae-roots,
one against the other,
some twisted high up into swaying oaks –
they were away on far horizons,
others tangled in the hooking briar.
I had to turn,
turn the other way
to return to my quiet home again –
and in my ear,
incessant, the buzzing bee.
Julie Sampson is a widely published poet. She edited Lady Mary Chudleigh’s Selected Poems, 2009 (Shearsman) and has two poetry collections: Tessitura (Shearsman, 2014), and It Was When It Was When It Was (Dempsey and Windle), 2018. She was highly commended in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize, 2019.