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Advent Poem

Si Walker, 11th December 2020

An advent poem by Neil Smalley. Neil was a long-time resident of the Norfolk Broads and now lives in Cumbria.


This bright, still, frosted day, I walked the marsh, to drink in the last of November’s calm, before December makes the snow and fur fly.
Beyond Coldharbour’s steaming cattle, and on, past Womack Mill.
And there, in a grassy sea, my rime-capped boots brought me to
An old abandoned shearing shed. ‘Picture meat’ if ever I saw it.
So standing off, I quickly sketched the aged lines of board and post,
And after marking the line of the sun, I put away my pad and jumped the dyke
For a closer look at this interesting ruin.
I found, on circling, it opened fully to the east,
And inside, sheltering from the north east whisper,
A donkey and a bullock stood, side by side, munching quietly
On the long dried hay which trailed between the nosed-smooth bars
Of the frail and failing manger-
Held up, only by habit and shadow, on the back wall.
Both beasts turned to look, calmly, not moving, not eating now.
I reached for my pad again, but stopped.
Their eyes told me, kindly but firmly, I had no place in this hallowed ground.
Another time, perhaps, but for now this place is sanctified and prepared for others.
These humble creatures, these honoured guardians would wait alone,
Another moon, perhaps, until a bright-starred night
Would bring the Gentle Travellers to share their stable.
A pause, a brief rest, before continuing their journey
To the redemption of Mankind.

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