Tait’s Tomb

A mile or so beyond the village
we passed a circle of walled ground
in a wet, cow-trodden field
a stone’s throw from the River Devon.
I’d heard it was the bishop’s acre,
where the family gravestones stood
in a tangle of thorn and sycamore.
It made me think of death as something
firm as timber, tough as roots,
persistent as the river’s pulse.

I never tried to climb the wall
or slip like water through the gate.
Perhaps I was afraid to find
the carcass of a hare or fox
rotting in a haze of flies;
or see a shudder in the yew,
part its leaves and light upon
nothing in the heart of green.

Robin MacKenzie was born and grew up in Central Scotland. He studied French at St Andrews and Cambridge and taught for 14 years at University of Wales, Swansea. He now lives near St Andrews in Scotland, and divides his time between teaching, editing and writing.