Hedging (on Exmoor during World War Two)


My mother held a billhook like a man

knew her way around the hedges, chose her stem

laid it uphill to fill a gap


Her dress was always the same belted overall, boots –

hair netted, rigid as stone

in its simplicity


My job, to pull away the trimmings

drag them unwilling to a patch decided

pile them awkward and whipping back

into a heap for burning


The heap grew, I tired of it


Intent up in the hedge

my mother split and bent

the smaller limbs


I knelt on the ground, ripped the match across the rough

lit paper and straw. A flame. Smoke rose

in a pungent curl, the ash sticks caught


Up the hedge, one hand round a limb, my mother’s wave

indicated the littered ground beneath


The wind changed, I ran chased by smoke

                                                                              Jane Beeson