Kit Wright

1944 / Kent / UK

The Roller in the Woods

Who would imagine a cricket ground
Had ever existed here,
Folded into a farm on the downland pasture,
Lapping the edge of the oakwood
And the buttercup-quilted rides?
For the Toll is returned to plough
After a century of combat,
Sown to a sea of blue-green waves
Beneath which it lies drowned.
And now,
Stick nor stone of the old pavilion,
Hook nor slat of the scoreboard left:
Never an echo of tumbling children,
Tattle of Edwardians,
Knocking their pipes out on the rough deal benches.

Foaming hawthorn and rhododendron
Have colonised the field-edge, spreading
Through copper beech and flowering chestnut
And adventitious saplings.
Is the camaraderie
Of the side I played for so often here:

Their thunderous blows and heroical overs,
The days that flowed with sun and wind:
Stalemates in dismal drizzle,
And the finger of death uplifted in the dusk?

I might ask,
Are Nobby and Dave and the Colonel and Phil,
The two Pauls and the one and only
Moggy Worsfold and Arthur Spark?
I have failed to raise them
By staring out at the level meadow
As if I were Cadmus who had sown
The dragon's teeth and awaited
His armed men springing from the earth.

But I did untangle my way
Through the canopied darkness of what had been
The boundary. Among the laurel bushes
And snagging goose-grass and rabbit holes,
I found what I'd forgotten, hidden
Under a wide oak. For this

Was what they could not lightly move
In the rhythm of abandonment:
Here was the deep ground-bass and the solemn
Measure of constancy, foundry-born,
That had lasted so long.
And I laid
My arms across the surface, feeling
Under the rust and dust and pollen,
The summers that never seemed to move
And all the years gone by to the creak of iron.
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