A Sussex Poem

The years have all vanished like old Slindon Wood.
They lie shattered and broken, torn by the wind
While I, revisiting old familiar haunts,
Breathing rich downland air as I did of old,
Remember – Time makes tourists of us all.
Down off the hill with a church clock striking six,
A distant dog barking as if to test the stillness
And the scent of woodsmoke, sweet apple and pear.
I was only passing through I know but in Sussex,
For a perfect moment, I belonged and was blessed.
Walking through woods in late October sunshine,
Beeches ablaze in restless glades of autumn gold,
Cherries already stripped of their dazzling brocade
And friends, kicking through the leaves, arm in arm,
Laughing – mocking the chill and the onset of the end.
Christmas Lunch and endless conversations
Spilling across the dunes and down to East Head.
Homeward like rooks across the pale December sky
To hot teas and presents and dogs by the fire.
Warmed through with love yet calling it company.
It’s Christmas time once more. The years are long gone,
Gone with Belloc’s plowman from Ha’nacker Hill.
Nothing is final – the windmill is turning again.
I am older, sadder. I can admit love now.
I knew it once in Sussex. They say I could return.

William Ayot