From the top of the slope,
among the desire lines
of crows, looking down

to the house and its thought
of smoke, you can see the Black Hills
paced out into acres of field

like the blanket your Mum made
depicting a hillscape
that you used to lie on

before you were walking.
And the farmers at their work,
the flooded garden.

The abandoned barns, stone huts,
tumbled cottages whorled like knots
in the grain of the hillgrass

hold all attention, roofs
folding in like the bags under eyes,
some family’s long-vanished life

lost beneath the long, withdrawing
furl of time, ebbing back
into the pristine, melancholy landscape.

It might be possible to start a fire
in those hearths, build a life
and excavate a quietness

the size of this patchwork.

Barney Norris was born in Sussex in 1987, and grew up in Salisbury. Upon leaving university he co-founded the theatre company Up in Arms, and for his debut full length play Visitors he won the Critics’ Circle and Off West End Awards for Most Promising Playwright. He was named in the Evening Standard’s 2015 list of most influential Londoners. His first non-fiction book, To Bodies Gone, a biography of playwright Peter Gill, was published in 2014. His first novel, Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, was published in 2016, and was both a Foyles and Waterstones book of the month.

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