Poem 81 – The Freedom of Flatness

Some say these dark drained lands are empty, dull,
Vast, boring landscapes stripped of growth except
Unnatural poplar lines which interrupt
The fields proudly, a giant picket fence

The rest is flat, a murky flat, devoid
That stretches on for miles and miles and miles
Even its drains seem still and slowly flow
Found wanting under gravity’s strong trial

Depressing, black the peat which forms this ground
Can ground the unfamiliar down and bring them low
Our vision though is not confined like others
By contours, trees or other upward growth

Cast off the blinkers raise your eyes and see
Forget the pull of earth’s deep prejudice
Don’t be constrained to two dimensions only
Lift up your weary eyes find evidence

This land makes space for that which downwards fills
The mist which hangs in early morning dim
Fen blows that sharply tear across the flats
Unfettered sky set free to have its fun

The clouds can play and nighttime stars shine bright
And awesome Moon around the Lantern* glow
This land’s not bare but full and overflowing
This canvas primed for heavens’ masterstrokes

* The octagonal tower which rises from Ely Cathedral, which dominates the skyline of the Cambridgeshire Fens.

I grew up in the Cambridgeshire Fens, a vast stretch of drained peat devoted mainly to farming. It’s a stark landscape; absent are the usual features gloried in by lovers of the countryside. Once you learn how to see it, though, it has its own majestic beauty which lingers in the memory.

© Ben Quant 2022

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