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Maiden Castle               Rutupiae-Richborough

         Edward Thomas at Adlestrop           The Lamps of Melilla


Maiden Castle


It is sunset. Dorchester lights up distantly

in damp, evening air. You take the rampart path:

pipits flutter and sheep pause. Here there is space

and the landís casual unconsciousness of years,

wet chalk slippy underfoot, ballistas of rain.


There are no ghosts, but we know the past has paced,

embedding footprints in receptive soil.

The men who harboured here conceived the entrance maze,

reshaped hillsí contours, made them fit their scheme,

and barrows mark the spot their bones were laid.


Smears of light on the by-pass grope the gloom.

The wind is spiked. Dead grass lies rain-dark,

winter-wasted. You cross the neolithic mound,

the iron-age gate, the Roman temple stones.

The pipitsí white tail-feathers skitter. The sheep stare.



Barry Tempest

published in Hidden Histories, University of Exeter, 2008






Sea, a ruined arch, an everyday

farm-gate: a brutal road

brought death along this way,


when sandalled legionnaries strode,

a future nestling in each soldier's sheath.

Back the other way, beyond the broad,


stone arch of creeping empire, beneath

the fronting wall of crumbling cliff, across

the straitened, wine-dark seethe


of waves, back to Gaul and Rome where all roads cross,

to Athens, Babylon and Ur;

myth of Eden; loss


of Africa, to Olduvai, our sore,

raw bones on our old, ancestral seat.

A single heritage is poor:


what tramps to us, the beat

of time and boots along this way,

where provenance and destinations meet!



Barry Tempest

published in Essential Journey,  Bardic Media Ltd,

2009.  ISBN 978-0-9550605-5-7





Edward Thomas at Adlestrop


The day the express train drew up there

unwontedly, two ways diverged:

flight through ripples of birdsong,

or steel rails shining in the June sun,

unrelenting to infinity. Can one travel both and be

one traveller? On the bare platform

no-one left and no-one came.

You were on your way to Robert Frost

and passing here the road not taken.

The steam hissed. The train moved on, the moment


missed. Is choosing always like

a set of railway points? That passing minute still,

cupped in a bubble of your words, floats on

through ripples of feeling farther and farther

with all the birds of pre-war English shires,

while your rough journey steamed

through France, and Arras, to a terminus.



Barry Tempest

published in Acumen, Jan 05, The Ember Press.





The Lamps of Melilla


We are the shadows in your night.

Outside the sparkles of your barbed-wire fence

we peer, your beacon


drawing us. Sense holds back;

we dare not flutter

against your flames like moths.


Dark encloses us, our loss

of your bright lights our grief.

We turn again to churning waters,


the coin-flipped toss of chance,

the ambiguities of shipwreck.

Your lampsí glow is our constant lure


on the trek to Agadir,

to leaky wood on East Atlantic waves,

the dark, dark deep.



Barry Tempest

published in Essential Journey,  Bardic Media Ltd,

2009.  ISBN 978-0-9550605-5-7


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