Gaer Hill. by Nicole Lee

Pulling through the storm’s tail,
after long days of rain,
soft, sudden squalls,
breaths of clarity, calm,
in a medium of mud, water, and air.
Underfoot, flurries of wet brown leaves
tramped down into cleat-stamped sludge,
the gloss of melted chocolate on our boots.
Huff, marching forward, upward in silence.
Sough, and growing roar, in the tops of the trees.
Ash, lime, wide-spaced, beech, throws of holly,
clinging to shins, cheeks, sleeves.

Looking back, looking down,
the river, six spans of spinning, glugging,
orange as builders' tea,
invading the fields, drowning the trees.
In a gap,
the abbey, its monk-filled silence,
its crumpled stones, a warning finger,
stern ecphoneme, black
against the mauve, grey, mist, woodsmoke
and rust of the dreaming ridge, touched in,
in light, sure, rapid strokes.

The narrow path becomes a clear stream,
tripping over rock,
bathing our boots,
dirt fleeing back down through bibbling water.
We step out onto a straight, broad, leaf-rich track,
the dogs threading eagerly between us,
and up ahead through a break in the clouds,
speckles of rain still flecking our face,
in the sudden dazzle of light,
a human figure resolves,
Alice, Puck of the Welsh woods,
Hunting for signal, slowly revolving.

Nicole Lee was born in Kuala Lumpur and educated at Malvern and Oxford. She has worked as a banker in London and Hong Kong and now lives in Wandsworth, works in Kew and writes poetry.