Leighton Moss


1. The Ghosts


So nothing dies, it lingers on,

It sinks beneath the matted reeds,

It hovers on the winter air,

It wraps its roots around the oak.


A bear has whispered through the woods,

Its tundra paws are soft as moss.

We see it in our open hearts,

We call it from its long lost path.


A lynx is in the reed bed’s edge.

Its stories deep as morning mist,

We summon memories from its shade,

Its whiskers taste of vanished dawn.


The sedge and forest, lake and burn,

All echo with the drifts of death.



2. The Wood Well Oak


The time zones buckled, seasons bent,

The rings lay thick, then thin, then lost,

As moisture, snows and distant droughts,

Were channeled through its heart of wood.


It stood beside a woodland well,

With leaves of cloth and dreams of love.

The people circled round like rings,

They merged their hopes with form and place.


A hundred years it took to rot:

From deep within the fungus grew.

It fell, one April, in a storm:

But even then its Spring leaves bloomed,


The wood well oak became the land.

The circles stopped, the cycle rolled.


3. Reed Bed


The waters teem with life and death,

Electric fevers of the Spring,

They’ve waited for their time to come:

In sun and light they burst and fade.


The land is crawling, grasping air,

It gasps for rain and captures birds,

It lifts and folds its crystal tears.

The land is dust and rock and grave.


The reeds are caught between these worlds.

They play the air and call to land,

Their echo-verse is ages old,

They breathe the water’s swirling song.


Fragility – it marks this place –

Where life wells up, but leaves no trace.



4. Bittern Fire


The light explodes in neural fires,

And life – intense and candle bright –

Reflects its spark from reed to reed,

And smokeless burns from eye to eye.


Invisible, the bittern blends.

Within the reeds it bleeds its form,

Through willow stumps, to deepest sedge,

Where only beak and eye are sharp –


Are photon sharp, are stark as stars.

The final sight the frog will see:

A dart of light, a blade, an eye,

Then gone and gulped and nothing more.


The bittern merges with the sun.

The life is one, the reed bed home.


5. The Last of Winter (A Northern Song)


The winter-scattered waxwings pause

For breath in rowans, twilight peached,

And dusted with the northern lights,

Vermillion and yellow chrome.


A Kalevala dance of wings,

Of brambling orange, white and black,

Of fieldfare stories, flighting seas,

At night with redwings, sharp as snows.


And on the lake the goldeneye,

Which fledged the earth, now dives for ice.

It pulls the songs out of the pike,

Then pops and bobs and shivers wings.


The tundra sun is turning round.

The arctic calls: its losts are found.



6. Saplings at the Margins


Embraced by roots and twisted truths,

With molten magic coursing through,

The bursting stems and latent forms

Are whole and fragments, buds and bark.


Conducting sun and seeping earth,

The branches whip the sky and marsh.

The sap they suck from distant stars

Is swirled in centuries of growth.


A universe is wrapped in reeds:

A fecund, replicating world,

A place of bird song, frog song, birth,

An immanence of creaks and leaves.


The sedge and willow bend and bow:

A pen and flute within the flow.



11 Comments to “Leighton Moss”

  1. Leighton Moss is a nature reserve on the north edge of Morcambe Bay, close to the borders of Lancashire, Cumbria and North Yorkshire. It is managed by the RSPB, and includes the largest reed bed in the north of England. It is a special place, both for its location and the wildlife which makes its home there.

  2. I don’t know what to say other than your writing is amazing.

  3. The soft-pawed bear, the mighty oak, the speared frog, the fragility of it all is its strength. I hope the RSPB does responsible work to preserve it.

  4. Most similes are impressively bad, but I thoroughly enjoyed every one you used here. The rhythm employed works well to carry longer works like this.

  5. Such beautiful images and verses. I especially loved the first, with its wonderful woodland creatures. Was blown away by
    Fragility – it marks this place –
    Where life wells up, but leaves no trace.

  6. Incredible. Really loved the bear….tundra paws soft as moss, and the sedge and willow bend and bow, a pen and flute within the flow–absolutely gorgeous 🙂

  7. I love your feeling for nature and its mystical qualities, and I am so impressed by the way you handle the form! It has a very ballady feel, but the envoi in each section prevents monotony of metre.

  8. What a prolific response you had to leighton Moss. You have inspired me to head out to the forest past the lake as I spend time here in rural West Virginia.

  9. So lovely… I especially like #5.

  10. wow…what beauty you bring out in nature…touching all the senses as well…rather love the songs in the animals and in the play of nature….and you give it a bit of that mystical magic as well….

  11. Gavin…this is how all books on conservation should be written…

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