by Ken Jones
that fold in the hills -
the whole world straightens out

Strangely simple, to find on the map the kilometre square in which the dream occurred. “Ruins” in Ordinance Survey gothic. No road or track. At least two days’ hard winter trek over the mountains. But I know I have to go.

Trod into the mud
a leather sole – it’s tread
face upwards
Sunlight drifts
across the hills
rolling up
the shadows
A ruin tops the pass –
pale among ghosts
I start a hare
Heart sinks
vast bog of rushes
yellow in the rising moon
Moon shadows
of ancient stones
mark the vanished track


Descending now to frozen pastures, hollow to my stick. In soft moonlight a Palladian shooting lodge appears, with a Moorish gralloching shed. I make my way towards the lighted porch. A tall, spare figure in tweeds holds out his hand.

“You’ve been a long time coming!”
“How long have you been waiting, then ?”
“Seventy-four years…”
Stuck in the frozen earth
worn spade and fork
lean this way and that

A convivial evening. It turns out we have identical tastes in writers, composers, painters, philosophers – and women. We get to reminiscing. Above the fireplace-

Woodland in oils
solitary figure
lost in a gilt frame

“D’you remember that life”, he exclaims, “when we were a copyist in the cloister, bored and composing haiku in the margins of manuscripts ? A soft Order, probably early Renaissance. And remember the obliging washerwoman? I found out where the monastery was, too !” He pulls out an ancient Baedeker from the bookcase and flips through the bible paper pages to a street plan of Padua.
As the evening grows late he becomes more of a grave mentor, like my old college tutor – though I am as old as he. “So, a late developer, but it hasn’t turned out at all badly, has it? Follies, you say ? Then honour them, even if you don’t condone them.”
His voice is the most striking thing about him. The quiet strength and assurance. We raise our glasses to the future. Identical knotted veins stand out and the same twisted arthritic thumb.

On the slate floor
misshapen slippers
keeping one another company

I rise late. There is a roaring fire in the breakfast room, and porridge on the stove. An ancient pendulum clock just makes it each time from tick to tock. No sign of my host, but a note in an elegant hand:

Sorry for my early departure. But now I also have a long journey to make. For yours, here is a sketch map and compass bearings. Fare thee well, brother ! Until the next time round . Do you remember old Basho, for whom “Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the passing years” ?

On the plain
a gateless pair of posts
their lengthening shadows


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