Humber Gap

Walk from Ferriby to New Holland via the Humber Bridge

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Mayday on Holderness

Ted Hughes


This evening motherly summer moves in the pond.
I look down into the decomposition of leaves –
The furnace door whirling with larvae.
From Hull’s sunset smudge
Humber is melting eastward, my south skyline:
A loaded single vein, it drains
The effort of the inert North – Sheffield’s ores,
Bog pools, dregs of toadstools, tributary
Graves, dunghills, kitchens, hospitals.
The unkillable North Sea swallows it all.
Insects, drunken, drop out of the air.
Birth soils,
The sea-salts, scoured me, cortex and intestine,
To receive these remains.
As the incinerator, as the sun,
As the spider, I had a whole world in my hands.
Flowerlike, I loved nothing.
Dead and unborn are in God comfortable.
What a length of gut is growing and breathing –
This mute eater, biting through the mind’s
Nursery floor, with eel and hyena and vulture,
With creepy-crawly and the root,
WIth the sea worm, entering its birthright.

The stars make pietas. The owl announces its sanity.

The crow sleeps glutted and the stoat begins.
There are eye-gathered eggs in these hedgerows,
Hot haynests under the roots in burrows.
Couples at pursuits are laughing in the lanes.

The North Sealies soundless. Beneath it
Smoulder the wars: to heart-beats, bomb, bayonet.
‘Mother, Mother!’ cries the pierced helmet.
Cordite oozings of Gallipoli,

Curded to beastings, broached my palate,
The expressionless gaze of the leopard,
The coils of the sleeping anaconda,
The nightlong frenzy of shrews.


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