Manchester-Sheffield

A tight-packed copse of denuded trees forms
an intricately woven patch near the hilltop.
We pass through a deep cutting, the high
sides blocking the sunlight. Too long since I
was last bathed in that unbroken warmth.
I yearn for more, for summer. Emerging
into wild terrain: deep clefts filled with scree
striate the hillsides. Trees cluster on lower
slopes, while nearer the tracks the land levels
into geometrical fields. A road, wet as a river,
gleams as it snakes toward us then disappears
beneath the earth. A river mirrors the road’s
course, but churns as it runs, topped by a
thousand white horses. An arc of pig houses
in a small field; well-stocked corrugated
bomb shelters, bright among dull, pocked mud.
A country graveyard, set at an angle to the rails;
a hundred flat, grey faces stare blankly upward,
imploringly seeking deliverance. An ancient
congregation, hemmed in by unnecessary fences.
In a track-side woodland, the birch branches
glimmer, beacons of juvenile hope among their
older, more serious brethren. Light flickers into
my eyes through ten thousand overlapping
branches, complex patterns of rapid-blinking
Morse code machine-gunned at my face.
The stark beauty of this multitude of naked
limbs strikes me with force. Can they conceivably
be covered in green before long? Is summer really
as charming as I have long, long convinced myself?

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