A note on the fens near Peterborough
Only the sky severs
these squared miles,
fields of bleak forevers
with bales like slick isles.
They’re too flat – spaces
we look at and lean into
while the train outpaces
shadow, kite, river blue.
I have an issue with fens:
the lack of hills is fine,
but where – amen –
are the woods? The pine-
clotted, thick fir woods?
‘flat’ is more flat
if these dull neighbourhoods
have only homes. No Gat-
sby living here, I know,
but if there was money
the fens might glow
might look more sunny
with trees to please the eye,
to join and link with sky.
But ever will I doubt
our ability to plant more roots
and really money’s not the clout
we need, just good boots
and a will to be more green.
Or am I wrong?
Do most prefer a scene
of stone without a song?
Who knows what time will make
of this years down the line
and how long it will take
for absences of pine
to curse all of our brains.
The trees are tired-looking, tattered, dead.
A wind goes through them, chilling, numb.
The birds are weary, one pecks a hollow drum.
The maples here are acid-white with red.
I hold one of the leaves that has been shed
and think the cells are dying, overcome
with poison from this past millennium.
The years of waste and smoke-filled air have spread
to rivers and the ruined roots that drink;
they feed these orchards’ fruit grown bitter, sick.
And bees now make no honey, nothing sweet;
the apples, too, are oozing rotten ink,
a spider’s web looks crazy, incomplete,
and an owl’s screaming like a lunatic.
Nell Prince has been published in New Poetries VIII, PN Reivew, Wild Court, and many other journals. In 2016 she was runner-up in the Jane Martin prize. She lives in Lincolnshire.