Poetry: Rise and Fall

A poem by Fiona Sampson

On grey days rooks bounce
slowly on thermals above the trees
opposite the house they rise
and fall without seeming to care

it's all a fallacy of course
because without human life
the house stills like something dead
and throws that stillness out of window

after window its blank stare
deadening the fields around it
what story could have you walk
into this deserted valley

one morning like the first who
came this way after something
broke in the old life did you
live here then the time of iron


posts and axles time of stone
barns time of planting fruit
in clearings where the first trees
were hauled down and burned the house

was busy then between wars
that came and went like weather were you
equal to it so much labour
squandered by the thing that broke

the old life down they are not calm
these ruined and empty houses
that used to fly their roofs like banners
of occupation or of hope

Fiona Sampson is published in 37 languages and has received numerous international prizes. A fellow and council member of the Royal Society of Literature, she has published 27 books and was twice shortlisted for both the TS. Eliot and Forward prizes. Her new books are Lyric Cousins: Musical Form in Poetry (EUP), The Catch (Penguin) and Limestone Country (Little Toller, May 2017).