Stewart Carswell grew up in the Forest of Dean and currently lives in Cambridgeshire, where he co-pilots the Fen Speak open mic night. He studied Physics at Southampton University, and has a PhD from the University of Bristol. His poems have recently been published in Under the Radar, Envoi, Ink Sweat & Tears, and The Fenland Reed. His debut collection, forthcoming in 2021, is Earthworks.
I migrate back to this farmland
burdened for summer with corn,
where the mound distorts the harvest
and the great stones form the façade
of a house that swallows the dead
and has for centuries. On a ledge
inside the entrance a line of faces
stares down at me, their flesh
behind glossy feathers, and guarding
its nest is the swallow,
inverting the tomb into a cradle,
raising five lives from this chamber.
Listen to this
The river is fed by brooks that pour
sound down the hillside. A season of rain
fattens it. The level has risen
higher than I expected, but it is level still
and that is important: to stay balanced
no matter how much rain
has fallen, no matter how much you want
to flow with that water away from this place.
A curtain of ferns
spreads at eye height
to a child and parts
from the push of a hand
the shrinking clearing
and the treasure at its centre:
an ancient sleeper
laying like a sunken casket
and shrouded by a puzzle
of oak leaves. The specimen
ornamented with metalware:
rusted plates and bolts,
brooches carried by the dead
to the next station of life.
Close the curtains. Change the scene.
A figure stands at the end
of the platform, his face masked
by a flag. Steam
spirals around him,
a spire above rows of sleepers.
There is one line
drawn from childhood
through junctions to connections,
and the destination is close
I feel the platform vibrate
from something about to begin.
The figure sounds his whistle.
His flag drops
and it is my face unmasked
and it's time to leave this dream
and I see it now. The trackbed
has lost its track and I have lost
track of time. I get up
to check my phone
but there’s no signal
and my daughter is asleep,
of a better life to travel in
and I see it now.
The ancient sleeper
is a relic, an inherited burden,
I step outside,
and the first engine of the day
sets out light, and I see it now:
I know what to do.