Dedicated to all those leaving Whitcombe House this year
There was no warning: the hillside was bare,
ripped and raped of years of growth.
On our pilgrimage past Pierre du Sacrifice,
the mulch-sprung pathway undulated as usual:
well-worn steps, twenty years' worth, engrained into our gait.
As we descended, the expectation of cool pine and eerie silence -
the silence of thick tall growth that canopies out light from the forest floor-
was whipped from our memory.
If only I had known -
That final descent in April would have been savoured,
relished and branded for future sensations sweet:
muscle-memory of suspended ground
made from years of pine needles;
light elbowing through cracks in the thick blanket above;
shards of light - moted and moving;
darkness, shadows and exhilarating fear;
unravelling daylight at the wood's exit ...
replaced by a barren and shocking absence:
Nash-like tree-stumps, fallen branches, withered leaves,
not even a whiff of decay.
Beyond decay. Fresh. Raw. A pillaging.
We tentatively stepped through the debris,
soldiers emerging from gashes after intense gunfire,
and we ran our hands across the land's wounds.
Crouching, we counted forty clear rings.
And again, again, again another forty rings
reverberated from the tight epicentral core
to the calloused periphery.
Her narrow six years were traced and compared;
our four decades lay wide-open and exposed.
Forty years ago a young farmer plunged saplings
deep into this fertile earth.
Today the land lay bare.
Bryony Hart 28/10/16