A Village Built on Water

December 18, 2009

The first part of this poem has already appeared in the article Fontmell Poems – Grave and Gay. The full version of the poem written by Jeany Poulsen during the Dorset Landscape in Words and Pictures Course at Springhead in 1994 fully deserves to be read in its entirety.

Far below ground clear water trickles
in chalk-white darkness
gathers
springs, from hillside, into village life;
snatches a quick brook breath
and dives into lake.
A small, landscaped gardened lake
flat as the millpond it used to be.
Lake with pretty shrubs, carefully placed,
with a twirly, pillared rotunda,
admiring itself among water-lilies.
Wrecked boathouse
fledging one last gift:
a sleek, silver canoe.

Downstream, this dreaming, lazy flood
falls off the edge of its bed,
tumbles
channelled
into a roaring, rushing, gushing force;
its draught, for a thousand years,
flick-flick-flicking a midstream fern.

Fast water grumbles still
under the creaking Higher Mill
-as was, isn’t now.

Companioned here by Mill Lane
Collyer’s Brook rows on down,
past Charlie’s Cottage
Lynchetts,
Greensands,
No Fishing – did Charlie care?
Springside.

Broadening now to a long shiny pond
where dagger-billed ‘gentleman in grey’ poach for trout;
brown, wild, trout,
that sprint here there below mallard, moorhen, coot.
A short waterfall to Middle Mill
and beyond a new double garage,
(brick, up-and -over doors)
a water-wheel hangs,
high, dry,
motionless in the turning of seasons,
but not old.
Just a modern, packing-case ghost of the real thing
that whooshed and clanked and rattled power, and a living,
from Collyer’s Brook.

Close by, a wheelbarrow, frozen in mid-squeak,
stands planted-up, on green suede lawns.
Middle Mill grinds its teeth
and pleads – on a Polite Notice-
DON’T LET YOUR DOG FOUL
Thank you.

The next house alone has no nameplate
but a garden gate standing open
brussels sprouts and chickens under old fruit trees
thatch of bright moss growing high in the steam-damp hedge.
A window-glimpse frames a tailor
warping time for sixty cross-legged years;
his father before him.
Tape-measuring lives, with brown paper patterns and pins.

Where sheep were dipped
and plough horses drank
the Neighbourhood Watches
telly, in Collyer’s Rise.

Air-freshened graces from the Old Vicarage
and a whiff of Jif from Granary Mill
all go with the echoing flow under the main road:
SLOW
GIVE WAY
to big traffic
a swallow’s nest waiting in the bus shelter,
and a different name:
Fontmell Brook, fermenting under a tiny bridge of sighs
that lies
between The Crown
and its loos.

Past the old brewery, maturing nicely,
and the Gossip Tree,
where once smocked Monktons, Ruttleys, Vincents and Spragues,
work-stiff and wheezed before their time,
coughed over clay pipes,
sighed over the damp chilliness of their crowded dwellings
now fresh-painted:
cosy Cranbrook, Brookland Cottage, Millbrook, Brookhouse,
Watermill Cottage.
Not a drip, not a drop out of place.

School Property.  Will they find jobs? Homes in their village?
Send love from the Post Office Letter Box?
(Just opposite the war memorial
that replaced a maypole).

Tall St Andrews divining the water
coursing across fields to Piper’s Mill.

A brook paying tribute
to the River Stour
and the distant, open sea.