Tachograph-

West, alongside running water, low gear climbing cinder tracks,
around elbow-angles, dropping it down for the revs, driving the
bends, taking the view from a passing-place. Over the brow of
the first in the range, spot-height to the east, checked and
named, through a cutting or pass, eyes to the front, four miles
one-in-five downhill, test the brakes. West, sweet-going single
track beside a silver-plated lake, metalled at last, slow up for the
bridges, narrow gauge, breathe in, nearside and offside mirrors
for whiskers, spare inches. West, fallen boulders, road closed
upassable out of season, five ptarmigan up ahead like tea-
cosies, hikers, ten miles to travel one, fjords-up to the armpit
and out to the fingertips of each, back onto grit, window up, this
year’s gravel sluiced by rain, pot-holes and pits, bedrock jig-
gered by frost, hard on the hands on the wheel, hard on the
seat. West, half a junction coming up, good use of the map,
good trig, incline to highest point, tightrope between two
peaks, arete, pig-iron fence, head in the clouds, sweep down
into arable land, common fields, fair going over level ground,
front-wheel drive with back end sliding around, shell out for
diesel, last chance before Newfoundland. Still west along con-
tour, following earthflow, downthrow, hanging valleys unjug-
gling milk-like melt-water, into neutral with the slope, radio
search for World Service, crank up the tape, foothills ahead,
kettle-holes up to the hubs, survival shelter high to the left, new
view, cover crops holding acres in place, the freight of ourselves
carried in oo-scale over epic terrain, floodplain, bays and bights,
essential minerals close at hand, noble metals, mantle on top,
up and over banks of kame, intermittent rain, hardpan over
there swept clean for the landing of planes, square miles of acid
rock, homesteads under the bluff, last farm, last light before
west, land-breeze picking up, relief, horizon at last of sea un-
broken, ledge-road under the cliffs, headlights on dip, blue-vein
lode in the stones, sunstruck at the coast, free-wheel down out
of landscape numb with after-shock, end of the day, handbrake
stop.

-Simon Armitage

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~ by shantam on October 30, 2007.

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