Stony Heap

Bernadette McAloon

The fields remember.
The air carries an echo
of the school bell's toll.
The prayers of girls
whose names the years
have worn in stone,
lie unanswered
in the sidings and strewn
through hedgerows.

The hills hold fast
to shaley secrets
at the valley's core,
to Blackheart Sundays
in the ruins
of parish halls,
to broken hymns
in bituminous veins
beneath the forest floor.

The rooks recall
a violent sorrow.
They crow and mourn
a century hewn
where pit dust falls
on Latin mass,
callipers, hawthorn,
library days, broom
in flower, buckled bone.

Bernadette McAloon

Bernadette McAloon is a PhD candidate at Newcastle University researching Female Identities and Cultures in Poetry of Place. She has been a runner-up in the Mslexia poetry competition and winner of the Vorse Scribben section of The Basil Bunting Award. For the last fifteen years she has worked as a creative arts therapist for children's charities in educational and social care contexts.

In 2015, she collaborated with the singer Wendy Smith on the piece Archive Air for NCLA Poetics of the Archive. They also edited Voices Returning, an audio collection of poems by fourteen women connected to North East England and published by Bloodaxe in collections, pamphlets, and anthologies. In 2016, she collaborated with the artist Fang Qi on the poem-film Then is diffused in Now for the Northern Landscapes exhibition in conjunction with the Newcastle Poetry Festival.

She explains: "Stony Heap is a small hamlet in North West Durham. It is the site of the Eden Colliery which ceased deep coal mining in 1980.

"Blackheart Sunday, otherwise known as Bilberry or Fraughan Sunday (Irish), was traditionally the last Sunday in July when the berries were gathered, baked in pies and taken to the village dance."

More recent news from Bernadette, and another poem: Glad Rags.

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Stony Heap © 2016 Bernadette McAloon: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.