The field’s on fire but the rain can’t douse it. Birds fly from twisted branches. Flowers are burning and the bees can’t reach them. The heather is thick with a savage scent. Bones of sheep slide into a pool. Ashes of cattle choke a ditch. Planters of wheat have fled. Water seeps from roots and wild circles of the wind rip the heads off trees. In the evening someone comes to this land with nothing but a right. He is the claimant we had all forgotten.
You’ve been away for many years, we said. Your skin is the colour of stone. Across the low bushes and brilliant streams you made turnings, windings and curvings to the heart of the moor. When one evening broke over stone walls, you came back. Why did you come back? There is nothing for you here. Your story was scratched on water.
Yes, he said. When water flowed away I started again up in the hills. I left the riverlands, the mudbirds wheezing in my landmarks. Under an unset sky, hung with reluctant rain, summer came and I moved west. Against the wind, behind hills I’d watch every day from the bridge, I put my stuff down under a crow-walked roof. In the borderland I learned new things but the old places followed, like a creed. I moved again, and then moved across the sea. But I had no claim, not a scratch of mine lasted and no weight is more crushing than indifference. So I moved back and now moved here, where the high woods hide me from the west. So it was, I moved and never said goodbye. And now, what of it?
Your inheritance is ploughed under. We never spoke about you so your shadow is dust in our forgetting. Nothing is as it was, you have no claim. Fuck off, we told him.
But he wouldn't go. He said, You let the moors burn and the farms wither. You lost the water and forgot about me. I will open and close the world for you in the blink of an eye. I’ll whistle up the dog from the green heart of the Dale and turn it loose, let it ravage your folds and howl down your moon. My claim is the last wild thing in this land. There is nowhere else for it to go.