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We have failed.

We failed when
we sold our out-of-date cottages
for modern living.

We failed when
we didn't vote MK
and let other parties win.

We failed when
we allowed planners
to do whatever they wanted.

We failed when
our university
became someone else's.

We failed when
others devolved
and we didn't.

We failed when
we argued internally
and let others win.

We failed when
we hear four nations
and don't check ourselves.

We failed when
we never correct county
and just let it go.

We failed when
we'd rather surf
than revolt

We failed to shout
when our voice
was drowned out.

We failed when
historical truths
got re-written.

But that is the way of us:
our little
fantasy nation.

In our failure we grow old
which is how
they wanted it.

Who now will fight?
Who will write our story?
Will we ever rise?

Tell me the truth.
Mouth it.



On Sundays, first it was chapel,
and after dinner, urts.
This was in days before trendy foraging,
when people ate what was around them.
On high Hensbarrow Downs
not much else grew
but mica dams and spoil tips,
grand canyons in the ground,
yet on patches of life
as at the abandoned hamlet of Halvigan
there were urts a-plenty.

I raided the cupboards at home
and found a Tupperware jug.
Anything would do to hold the hoard.
It was a slow September harvest,
a brief pinch at the plant,
and then the pull away.
Too hard, and the berry would be crushed.
Too soft, and disappointment followed.
You'd do anything to grasp their plumpness,
and struggle through bramble to gain the prize.
Their bushes were set low
on ancient paths or new sand ridges.

In dialect, I only knew the fruit as urts.
It was later, when learned,
that I realised it was a corruption of whort:
whortleberries being their full name.
By teatime, my fingers were blue,
a stain that lasted the full week
and was back again the following Sunday,
sweet as ever in the afternoon sun.
There are no pickers now.
Instead the berries go to the birds, or rot,
and I am forced to buy blueberries at Waitrose,
to place in my mica-ed Greek yoghurt.

An afternoon's hard work only gave enough
for a smallish, pathetic pie,
though still eagerly baked by my mother
and covered later in Rodda's clotted cream.
Urts are not especially sweet,
but the whole tasted good
since we had picked its contents.
Now Halvigan is gone, lost under sand,
and over old urt runs and fields, more houses.
They can no longer flourish nor ripen.
Incomers have cherry picked - and urts
follow us into sour oblivion.


From the collection 'The Mouth of Truth' (2021) from Francis Boutle Publishers.