Winchester Trilogy II

Second post in the Winchester series for you…

TO WINCHESTER

II       Golden Grain

Grown from the ground,
From earth’s chalk & clay, grime & gravel,
Tight-folded granules of wheat—
The poor man’s gold—
Is grist to the mill.

Dusty with lowly soil
It bulges in shadowed sacks,
Dull & lifeless as ash
Until from the dry-store it’s poured
Rattling, scuttling down the hopper:

Nuggets crushed between grey jaws,
Between the furrowed grit-stones.
They utter no sound but the low, low groan
Of stone on stone as gold-dust
Turns soft as silk:

Brighter than chalk or silver,
Whiter than milk or light.

And flour blooms on the mill-house floor.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Winchester Trilogy

Followers of this blog over the last year know that our challenging, gorgeous trek along the whole length of the South Downs Way is over. We celebrated the end of our 100-mile westward walk by spending several days in historic Winchester.  Here follow some of our impressions, starting with the Winchester City Mill.

TO WINCHESTER

I      The City Mill

Upstream the water unreels diamond clear from its cress-bed source
Over chalk-beds white as sifted flour:
Bird-dipped, sliding, slipping in silence
It glitters in its shallow course.

Upstream the water drifts in a dream,
Soundless, limpid below blue-green willows:
Swan-swum, trailing skeins of water weed,
Beaded with pennywort, with ferns fountaining,

But then—above the gabled red-brick mill—divides.

One side flows smooth, the other rough-grained like wood,
Braided suddenly in faster-flowing fibres;
In light-shot silver bands it runs
In a hissing murmur, strands twisting ever tighter,
Drawn inexorably through the deepening sluice.
Soon it rushes, slices over tiny stones,
Over long-lost Saxon buckles, Roman coins
And stream-washed rainbow trout bones
Drawn into the foaming white churn of the mill,
Roiling, boiling & the great black wheel
Turning, toiling, with the flap, the slap of blades
Clacking, iron cogs clicking
And the bright wet-shine of water on old oak,
And the rattle of pulley chains
As a cascade of wheat-grains
Descends to feed the yawning hopper.
Now Winchester’s city mill roars.
Old timber floors tremble
At the guttural growl, the groaning grind
Of mountainous grit-stones turning…

But then—below the thundering mill—
The sundered water joins its twin tides once again.

Downstream the river drifts in a dream,
Soundless, limpid below blue-green willows:
Swan-swum, trailing skeins of water weed,
Beaded with pennywort, with ferns fountaining.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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