Three Poems by Helen Boden


That final weekend we each had our reason
for the dash for the hills:
mine, local, was just to be normal
mitigate the rush to move
all of life online,
a situation that didn’t stand still
long enough to do so.

It was that turn of year when gardens altered
visibly, daily. Not just the gardens this time.
The clocks had gone forward and mourning set in
for first light evenings in Keld, Broughton, Arran,
after-dinner cycles and walks.
The horse-chestnut at number eleven was budding,
lower branches already leafing. Behind it, daily,
as every summer, more of Hillend would disappear.

Of the regular hillfolk, some stayed home
but occupied the moral high ground.
Others went out early – or late now was lighter –
to run, leaping fences or finding ways
of opening gates
with walking poles used like knitting needles
to unpick latches
remotely re-fastening on fence-posts
loops of binder twine.



Gridlock in Early Lockdown

We were locked down after the weekend when everyone went to the hills when 80-by-20 grids of vehicles sparkled in the equinox overspill fields, hundreds more on the verges along lanes. These are worklands: the ewes are pregnant, farmers shouldn’t be put at risk because you unlatch the gate and contaminate the metal. On higher rougher grass skylarks are back, preparing for nesting. If you drop litter a bird still suffocates. If you let an untrained dog off the lead it will still chase sheep. And now this whole new threat to livelihoods and lives. We start to bargain like a cause > effect diagram: if I if we if you self-isolate, the camp-bed grids waiting in island-village halls and edge-of-conurbation gymnasia will not need to be occupied. Cattle won’t escape. The lambs will be born.

It’s already harder to imagine going
to Gordale, Yetholm, Pirnmill.
Veering hourly from winter-solstice contentment
with staying close and drawing in
to panic and alarm
we can’t reach most of the summits
that can be seen from local Capelaw:
Black Hill, Carnethy, East Cairn.

In our suburb under the Pentlands cars are locked in driveways, squeezed between neighbours’ parking spaces. The weather’s closed in too. What’s beyond Hillend becomes remoter and remoter as we Zoom each other daily. If I if we if you self-isolate, can we ensure the grids for cold-storage of human remains, warehouse acres awaiting on the edgelands, will not be needed? Please?



Gathering Data

After Marina Hyde

Finally, someone called out
those overused military metaphors:
Field hospital. Battling. Frontline.

The Dreghorn approach to the Pentlands:
under the bypass after the barracks.
In the light of new notices
that appeared on gates between the second and third weeks
secured on stiles by the Regional Park
following guidelines and from government and council:
some social observations, recorded
alongside the daily increase in greenery
the weekly extension of visibility –

social distancing – excellent
gate / stile hygiene – variable
dog control – poor

social distancing – poor
gate / stile hygiene – poor
dog control – n/a

Precipitation: nil; fire hazard: increasing



Helen Boden is a writer, educator and editor, born in Yorkshire and based on the edge of Edinburgh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *