[Once in Derbyshire]

Once in Derbyshire, along the Derwent

Between the millstone grit of Hathersage

And the whorl-pocked stone of Grindleford,

I came upon a tributary twenty feet across,

No bridge, but ten small stones

Angled, worn smooth, no guarantee

Of stability, no surety of foothold.

And I, poor balancer, poised on

The nether bank, in fear somewhat

Of walking fifteen miles in sodden clothes

(My record to that date, water emerging fully clothed

Had been but three, all on the trot).

At least the odds were known, not sudden death,

Small chance of drowning, self destruction.

Behind me was the morning’s walk,

The stone and shingle, sand and rough grass

The run down through the woods of silver birch and pine,

To the river, smooth, in the dark shades of alder and beech,

In front, promise, expectancy and hope.

Half way across, my world, as in a freed hinged mirror

Turned upon me, only my heart, moving out of place

Secured some balance, and a leap, wild and reckless

Heaving the body clear with a last toe hold,

Flung in fearful flight my palpitating breast

Upon the further side, slithering in pebbles,

Moss and weeds.