Peggy’s Oak, by Lydia Hill

This poem, by our member Lydia Hill, was selected by our external judge for inclusion in Folio #74 in 2020.

Peggy’s Oak

No horses graze today beneath Peggy’s oak. In full leaf it stands
on the slope of a mound, the sheltered side, a good spot.

The small field rises from the road beside the whitewashed village hall
where you once danced. A large cabbage white flutters under the eaves.

I hear the band playing In the Mood, smell cigarette smoke, hear shuffling feet;
you were clumsy, you trod on girls’ toes, laughed when they complained.

How many horses have sheltered beneath this oak? Scratched their rumps
on its rough bark? If I look, will I find a clump of Peggy’s brown hair?

You say she never used her field shelter, winter’s mornings
you’d find her, frost on her back, under the oak.

I lean on the gate, feel through your hands the cold steel catch,
listen as your booted feet crunch on frozen mud,

you call over her warm, steaming horsiness,
holding her harness, inhaling Neat’s Foot oil, waiting for the day to start.

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