I haven't moved much from where we last said goodbye. But now, the wind howls and presses the breath out of me; it no longer ebbs calmly at my elbows as it did then. We used to sit here with our feet dangling over the bridge, watching the steady flow of river tumble out to sea.
Years have danced before me since those fast hot days, the last summer before it all. I hate time when it dances like that, taunting me, telling me how late I am and always, always, how gentle you were.
I grow old and so do you, but your skin does not fall from your bones like mine will, or your hair drain of its colour as mine should, and your head won't ache and your hands tremble no more, because you grow without the gravity of age; you grow in beauty just as the barley ripens and falls back into the earth again and again and again.
Some nights I won’t sleep - I’ll just sit on my sill, my feet dangling out of the window. But now, the nightingale won’t sing and the moths bump into me; their feathery pallor scares me. And I’m a stranded rock and all I can do is wish I had arms so I could hold tight to the last ribbon of fraying seaweed attached to me, just hoping the river will change its course so it could never be swept away. But the water pushes faster and harder with every winter and you have almost gone.
I try to tell them. They never listen: they do it again and again and again. You said you couldn't understand how bodies were so fragile until you saw that there was no wall between life and death, skin and blood. I’m sorry beloved that the sorrows of sorry and the weeping of one hundred years haven’t ended it. The disease of war invades each of us and death streams from our voices like flares plunging into inky blackness.
But you wouldn't like it here now. Things are rushed and loud, never gentle, not now.
When you watched from the train, the day you went away, you saw it all: the shy English soil slipping away. Now the oak is stooping with the years and your name upon her bark is almost cracking apart. But it hasn’t gone and you’re in each one; in each flower dancing wild and pure in this valley, in the clouds that grow heavy and with the rising of the sun. Your whispers move the barley husk. You sigh with the coming and going of the tide, reaching me, feeling me, watching me, keeping me.
But still, I cannot stop the shadows crawling or the rooks clawing at the earth, and I am sucked further into sinking dirt, when I think of you telling me,
I’ll go, because then you’ll be free.