First Steps in Hawkshead Churchyard – David Whyte

My son strode out into the world today,
twenty one steps on the grave of Ann Braithwaite,
her horizontal slab of repose, grey beneath
the lifting red socks, her exit from the world,
his entrance to the world of walking.

She must have lain beneath and smiled past
the small arms outstretched to the church tower of Hawkshead,
she must have borne him up, her help from the end of life
his beginning, her hands invisible, reaching to his.

He walked through each line explaining her life,
sixty two years by the small lake of Esthwaite,
lichen, green grass, grey walls and the falling
water of ice cold streams, his small place of play,
her mingling with the elements she lived with.

A meeting of two waters,
hers a deep pool, solitary in stillness,
his swift, bubbling from rock to rock,
pouring into her silence, a kingfisher
flare in her darkness, promise of light,

ineffable, unknowable, the touch of his feet
a promise of a world to come, solid on a life well lived.
His look of surprise when the church bell rang,
her knowing. The sound of time, his now, hers then. New rituals
are always played on the graves of those long dead.

First Steps in Hawkshead Churchyard
River Flow: New & Selected Poems

©2006 David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

Photo © David Whyte:
North Country Church Yard.
Yorkshire. July 2014

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