OS Sheet 78 [1961]

Envisage every layer that a map contains –
the naked earth, its contours combed with pleasure
round each hill; the rivers, runs of coastline,
and each cliff; the early settlements like puckered skin;
the castles, mansions crumbling in their gothic script;
towns, conglomerates that grow their random streets
in filaments of grey; the railways, roads and motorways
that try to give the whole some sense of running
to a plan – each element a mark of god, or sign
that need or greed has kept the landscape in its grasp,
or touch of someone’s hand upon a page.

An up-to-date O.S. holds everything
we have or were. Discovers what’s around us
and each hedge – no seeming secret place
that can’t be found or guessed at, or privacy
for distant monarchs in their glens. In time,
an older map will tell you what you’ve lost.
That mine that once sprawled heaps and railheads
by those brick-walled yards has gone, and in its place
a landscaped park, a quick estate, a superstore.

On my map flows a past with all its routes
intact, keeps now alive with guesses at each turn.
Turn right, along a road that isn’t there,
but is, to a future that has happened and is not.

Ellingham
August 1993
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