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Portrait of the Artist as a Lone Tree

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Peak lightning

Youlgreave, 2006

Click to hear (.mp3)


An amber blast enlivens the horizon,
a thousand feet above the valley floor.
No thunder rumbles here, but eerie silence
makes lightning strike the spirit to the core.
Outside the far-flung cottages, men gamble,
they drink, they walk their dogs, they show no care.
No cloud of threat, no drop of rain to hurry
the plateau sheep to shelter. But I stare,
as bolts of crackling light deny the darkness
that hurries from the north and from the east;
beyond a final hilltop lies the valley -
and there, before my eyes, all hellís released.

Crackling with mad maimed larynx comes the thunder;
no longer hemmed by hills, I hear its roar,
echoing round the slopes in muffled cursing -
one long concussive lusty shout of war.
The clouds confined in huddled ranks rain shrapnel
on slated roofs of coldest glistening grey;
now comes the little zephyr that announces
King Thunderstormís wet ranks are on their way.
Turn tail, flee downward; who will hold the hills?
When sheets of flame and triple bolts of malice
come clashing through the air to shake the cliffs,
and make a place of fear from natureís palace.

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