Is it milky blue or shimmering azure white?
An English summer sky this hot July afternoon
Is not telling.

Below me in a small field, lined with oak, chestnut and elm
My son and his step-father Paul
Instruct three women in the art of hay-baling.
All Emett* from up here, but Paul’s home-spun device
Is working.

Stuff the upright open yellow box with grey-green hay,
(revealing lush yellow grass beneath),
Jump in and stamp it down as more hay is piled around you.
Fix the inner lid. Force it and the bale down through the bottom;
The green bale string tightly in place.
Much laughing.

Laughter which is distant enough from me,
Standing on the lawn, not to register exactly the mouths,
Reaching me in petals, like the skylark’s song
Which is falling from the sky behind me, the sky above
Garway Hill.

They have finished and trail up to the cottage
To launch into tall glasses of lemon barley- water.
My three young red-faced children -the patina of perspiration,
The joy of physical exertion, so confidant, so clear.
They gabble and joke and chat and smoke.

But Paul
Stands to one side,
Framed by the white conservatory he has built in the
Year since I was last here.
His face is strained by physical pain.
His laugh

Turns down at the corners as if he must withdraw it,
Take it back (for this is no laughing matter).
The colour of his face tells the gravity of his passage,
The mottling of yellow and grey suffused
By the reddish-blue
Of foxgloves.

It is midnight and the full moon sits high above Garway Hill,
Flooding the beacon where we sit, the six of us,
And dream the counties of England and Wales which stretch below.
Pools of silvery light and constellations of yellow;
The dark blue sky and the white stars and the fading reddish warmth.
Time to reflect, to recreate your life and go.
We walk together for a time but soon break away as the walk
Turns into a run. Running through chest-high bracken,
Down and down, the supple fronds swishing in the brilliant
Moonlight, some breaking under foot.

But there is more than bracken growing on this grand old hill.
The moonlight picks up their tall poker stems. Not one or two,
Nor twenty but hundreds, yes hundreds, of foxgloves
Are growing on Garway Hill.

Reddish-blue sentinels, they stand guard over Paul’s cottage
Which approaches us as we meet the valley below.

Garway 1994

*Rowland Emett (1906 -90) was a renowned cartoonist and inventor of fantastical machines who lived in the UK