(Long Meg and her Daughters, Cumbria)
 
We walk the lane by snow-streaked fields,
beyond the cattle grid,
to the sandstone menhir, carved aslant
and gaunt, a finger pointing at the sky.
 
Anchored by brute weight,
scratched with whorls and initials,
beset by sun and snow,
she holds
her horned head high.
 
Old men with ivy beards
and careless maidens
dance to the devil’s tune:
cattle beflowered, streaked with wine,
meet honed flint, lament and low.
Blessing of the solstice, blood red,
retinal imprint, a vestal glow:
but that was then, not now.
 
It is midday and the ancient ash
on his gnarled foot shakes his locks,
weeping from the fissures of his skin.
We track through mud and cowpats
as winter releases its hold,
a brief hour of calm.
 
Then we see the line
of fresh-killed calves
on the concrete of the dairy farm,
like stiff small rugs,
the twenty-first century’s offering
to the force we all obey.