The shaved field slopes abrupt, down through
last heat to thick trees where the river curves.
Here the tractor visits tumbles of bales -
we hump them high, run on to the next.
I use my knees instead of string-scored palms.
Being short on spit with hay-seeds, my breath rasps.
The tall stacked trailer’s last bales get wedged in
as cool night moves up from the valley floor.
A huge moon comes near, gleams on swift bats, dew.
We follow, tired, up hard ground to the barn.
Over piled summers I climb, slow, careful not
to stir the cobwebbed dust I breathe, but sit back, high
near jealous swallows, to kick in place these last
difficult bales we strain to have done with.
Free to go, to cool off, we all brace
stuck together with the one sweat, hard
against the trailer sides, and hurled down-hill.
We shout across bumps, ride on down through
moonlight, to where trees absorb the moon.
My chill breath hurts the whole length of my throat.
Quietness waits behind our hasty noise, it over-
whelms us, stopped at the water's brink. No light,
only river sounds and what strikes in as we
fight against clothes, walk, shuddering, crouched,
across mud, staggering, falling into cold
that rips out thought or breath. We must each trust
one another, pushing through hard to what
we claim back, sharpened, raw – the sense
of being alive as ripples of light burst out
among these unknown depths of blackened leaves.
We’re quiet and gentle now, each one a point
of stubborn warmth in the cold moving stream.
Born into a family of New Forest commoners (which means obstinate country people who run their cattle, pigs, or ponies on the Forest, helping it stay healthy.) Iris Woodford was poor enough to get a full scholarship to St Hugh's, Oxford. She is soon launching a website on psychosis.