I drove north that December without expectations;
behind me the old year narrowed into dark lanes of

At Penrith the night sky threw a constellation of snow
against my windscreen;
the Whinlatter Pass was closed because of ice.
When I stepped into the brightness of a panelled hall, you – my friend’s sister – greeted me like a hero.

Three years later we married.
The windowsills of the ancient, scarcely used church
standing solitary in its field
brimmed with flowers.
And I sometimes think of those who came later that
afternoon –
unlatching the door, expecting
bare stone and dampness,
and stepping instead into a dream
of scent and white blossom.



The coming generations will think us mad:our primitive vehicles drunk on fossil fuelclogging up the landscape,clogging up the sky.‘Surely they knew better?’ they will sigh.

I can offer nothing in defence
except a definition of happiness:
driving along an empty road with you –
through Orkney meadows tapestried with flowers;
past Wicklow hills all prickly-bright with gorse;
among the sunflower fields of southern France.
The ranks of tournesols like epaulettes
seemed to shoulder that moment against time,
raising their heads to call, ‘Drive on, drive on!
Into the next valley, where the sun
gathers all lovers’ love into its light
till all that is not love is lost from sight,
and every road is flower-lined, and every flower sublime.’

Only a madman would listen to a sunflower;
but on your birthday morning, at this pristine hour,
let us show the sensible ones what it is to be alive –
turn the key, plot a course by the sun,
and drive.

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