Helen Ashley

Travelling back

Walking your track by Ashford Stream,
Hangers Way to Shoulder of Mutton Hill,
I stand by your named stone, look down
on Steep, your village home, tucked
among trees a mile or two from Petersfield.

That town teems with more life now,
than it did when I, eleven years old,
began my first two grammar school years here.

Two stops on from Havant
on the Portsmouth to Waterloo line,
I journeyed for six terms; could have chanted,
as sure as the disembodied announcer,
all stations from there to London.

Little use to me, that skill. But if
my schooling had acknowledged you, Edward,
the part of your life spent with Helen
and your children a short way above
the railway line, in this Hampshire countryside,

my eager brain could have filled instead
with your words; could have become familiar
with the shrub – Old Man or Lad’s-Love –
that your daughter ran fingers through
beside your house door; the team of horses
you watched ploughing in the sun;

the aspens talking of rain and ghosts
at the crossroads by the Cricketers Inn;
the cherry blossom you saw falling
like confetti for no young man’s wedding.

It would have meant something, to know
that your feet had trodden the same platform
where mine went, as you had waited
for your train to London or Gloucestershire

Helen Ashley finds inspiration for her poetry from the countryside, and also from music and other art forms. She is interested in how memory and the imagination work together with our everyday experiences to enhance perception. Her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines and her first pamphlet, Ways of Saying, was published by Acumen in June 2010.