The Quartz in Your Valley

S. J. Litherland

for Barry MacSweeney

To find the quartz in your valley
  I must make sure it's raining,
    a settled rain of fluent chiming
      like a rivulet from the fells,

follow the course over dead gravel
  onto the marbled slab of the river,
    wade upstream through erosion of rocks
       where the glacier first picked

its way not carefully from hills,
  where waterfalls hang from pillars
    like tresses of naiads' hair
      yet fracture into drops like facets

of stone. I must travel up where
  the low cloud skirts and
    water clatters in the cold beck.
      It is there the quartz glitters.

It will gleam rose and cloudy pearl
  among your tumblestones.
    It has to be dislodged
      from wild continuous chatter,

an ore of a kind, in the high up
  bubbling seed bed of the river.
    The mist will come down, closing
      the fell in loose gauze fetters

as I immerse my hand
  into the pain of spring water,
    all winter's chill collected
      like bundled barbed wire.

Up to the wrist the water will boil
  near to freezing. I will prize
    free the sharp gem prickles,
      so like ice, from its setting.

If you had a heart it would be
  this quartz, if you had a body
    it would be this water, slipping
      into the tidal reaches of the Tyne.



S. J. Litherland

S. J. Litherland is from Warwickshire but has lived in Durham since 1965. She is a founding member of Vane Women, the women's writing collective.

She says:

"The Quartz in Your Valley was written on the Isle of Wight during an exchange with the women's group Shore Women, a poem sparked by looking at stones. It's a poem of being exiled from place and love and is a restorative journey up the South Tyne Valley to the source of the river on Cross Fell. Following Barry's death it was the closest I could be to him."

The poem appears in her sixth poetry collection The Absolute Bonus of Rain due from Flambard Press this Spring. Recent publications include The Apple Exchange and The Work of the Wind, also from Flambard, and The Homage, a cricket saga, from Iron Press. A poem from The Homage was chosen to represent cricket on the BBC Radio 3 programme Words and Music.

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The Quartz in Your Valley © 2010 S. J. Litherland: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.