Elizabeth Barton

Absence

In the quiet forest, nothing stirs.
I hear no sigh of leaves, no woodlark’s song,
only the moaning of the bracken.

I see your boot prints in the sand, puddled
with rain, the claws of a dog beside you.
Your lips are silent as the pines encircling us.

I follow you across the heath, past bones
of birch, faded moor-grass, heather.
You teach me not to fear the adder’s hiss,

point to vanished things –
ancient barrows, herds of aurochs, tarpan.
You show me how a kestrel’s wings

blossom in the emptiness of sky and heath,
how the gorse flower burns with a wild light.
I feel the chill of rain on eyes, ears, lips

and in the gloom, I see the ruby glow
of toadstools, moss the green of paradise.
Far off, I hear you whistling for your dog.

Elizabeth Barton read English at Cambridge, after which she worked as a teacher and reviewer. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Acumen, Agenda, Orbis, South
and The High Window. She is Stanza Rep for Mole Valley Poets and enjoys leading
Ecopoetry workshops. Her Pamphlet, If Grief were a Bird, will be published later this year
by Agenda.