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Simon Armitage: a poem

The Bears in Yosemite Park

are busy in the trash cans, grubbing for toothpaste

but the weather on Mam Tor has buckled the road

into Castleton. A crocodile of hikers spills out

into a distant car park as the rain permeates

our innermost teeshirts, and quickly we realise:

this moment is one which will separate some part

or our lives from another. We will always remember

the mobile of seagulls treading water over Edale.

Killer whales pair for life;

they are calling across the base of the ocean

as we sprint for the shelter of the Blue John mine.

We know the routine. In the furthest cavern

the lights go out and the guide will remind us

that this is true darkness and these splashes

of orange and bristling purple fibre are nothing

but the echoes of light still staining our eyelids.

Back in the car we peel off our sticky layers

and the stacks of rain

are still collapsing sideways as we gear down into

Little Hayfield Please Drive Carefully. On the radio

somebody explains. The bears in Yosemite Park

are stumbling home, legged up with fishing-line

and polythene and above the grind of his skidoo

a ranger curses the politics of skinny-dipping.

This is life. Killer whales are nursing their dead

into quiet waters and we are driving home

in boxer-shorts and bare feet.

From Zoom! (Bloodaxe Books, 1989) Simon Armitage is an English poet, playwright, musician and novelist. He was appointed Poet Laureate on 10 May 2019.

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