In rolling royalties he took an innocent delight
but what, in baring his soul, had he really wanted?
Nothing it seemed to him gave anyone the right
to anatomise the growth that he had merely planted.
Those corners that most excited them remained dark for him,
dark and consequential, like a late summer sky
as it banks away towards evening and the stormy rim
of darkness veiling and unveiling hillsides of rye.
He thought it would be enough to tilt his page
to catch the rain-washed strokes of light,
to leave it all incomplete, a cloudy rage,
and throw a tarpaulin over it as one would a boat.
But even then knots of people stood around
wanting a word, a signature, above all information.
Did he feel flattered? So long as they didn’t surround
him he could edge away, pleading engagement, the woes of creation.
He had meant what he said: he stood on the edge
of the known world of noisy, parasitic business,
and on those reckless enough to approach his ridge
had urged safety and caution as one might a straightening of dress.
How many repetitions does it take? The broken sky
leaned dangerously but still the multitude
came on steamily, as if they detected a lie,
and so far he had managed not to be rude.
Here was the earth, the covert, the blanket of red leaves
that discreet October had kindly provided,
a stump wrapped around with the silence of foggy trees,
where nothing further could be exposed or derided.
It wasn’t exactly peace and far from solitude.
There were many theories, but no one thought he was a saint.
With neighbours moving remotely he could avoid a feud
and brood in silence on his mysterious taint.