THE QUESTION

by Ken Jones

 
Skyline far off
the fretted gate
always there

As in some obsessive love affair, I am drawn back again and again. This lonely strip of water, now black, now silver, now prussian blue. Here I sit and pace the shoreline, night and day.
 
Sixteen hundred feet up. Lost on a moor of heather covered knolls, of textured browns and greens and yellows, sour bogs and black peat hags. My little world apart -- this solitude of ruffled water, circumnavigated in all of half an hour. The way round the lake is barred at one end by a livid green tongue thrust out through the tawny moorland. Across it, humping and squelching, I lay a trail of stepping stones

My weight on a stone
the whole bog
shudders and quakes

I have grown fond of these bogs. They have attitude.

Each little tussock
celebrating tussockness
its own way

The stony shoreline is bright with lichens. At one end rises a miniature cliff, sheltering a pine – the only tree for miles. The lake is fed by a stream, falling into an elegant bathing pool before finally tumbling into the lake. Nearby is a rough stone shelter, piled up a hundred years ago or more by some other lover of the lake. It has been cunningly curved against the sneaking winds.

In the stone shell of a snail
curled up cosy
on my bilberry bed

Ty Malwoden – the Snail House. Out on the point I have raised a cairn. Its white quartz cap catches the first and the last sun of each day – however rarely offered. From beneath an angler’s umbrella I flick the question back and forth across my mind, with never a bite. Deftly shied, my slates skip and skim, but never reach the other shore.
 
This afternoon I take my wanting mind and needy heart for a stroll around our world. A pale shadow turns up to complete the party. A Greek chorus of wild-fowl chortle and chuckle in the reeds. And the wind blows as usual.

Clattering over
shards of slate
to make my presence felt

However, by the time we have returned to where we began all of us feel the better for it. The heart has eased, the mind stopped fidgeting, the shadow a richer black. Also, there is the discovery, in different places, of three magic boulders. Once settled on them, all agitation dies away, and there is only the sweet song of the wind and the waves. Each I mark with a quartz stone.
 
And by night time the wind has fallen. The question is forgotten.

A crescent moon
comes floating
on a raft of stars

The morning after…
 
On a boulder, where the stream flows into the lake. Between the babble of the brook and the lapping of the waves –

A skeleton
breathing air
and pumping blood

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