A Line Through Exmoor

On Richard Long’s abstract ‘walking sculpture’


This work of his, like the wind, is invisible,
so he draws the theory in pencil – a straight line
on a compass bearing of 290 degrees –
with a ruler across the Ordnance Survey map.
It’ll be a sculpture of strides on the terrain,
north-west to south-east, from Parracombe to Exford.

It means a radical departure from his previous Line
Made by Walking, a piece of grounded pith:
see the bare thread worn in the meadow
by his tread from A to B, backwards
and forwards for a month, in this photograph
taken before the grass grew back.

But A Line through Exmoor will leave no trace
other than his memories of it, wearing thin
and thinner with each day, and what appears
on paper as a neat, hassle-free bee-shot,
like a biography of the artist in a hundred words,
translates as miles of fences, hedges, banks.

All the trundling through moors under the rain,
scrambles over styles, the slosh through fords,
the sludge in bogs, the clods loading his soles,
traipsing ice-hardened soil, thirst, breath clouding
in the frost, the steep combs, the trespassing,
wire fences, foxes’ holes, the arrow-like

line in his mind will need to rhyme in slant.
His progress will wend the corrugated verse
of a space odyssey told in rambling phrases
his heart understands but cannot speak.
He’ll pause under the sleek antiphonies of owls,
in the ruffled waves of red stags’ bellows,

the ultrasound fizz of damselflies, the drone
of easterlies harassing the uplands’ face,
breaking through the boundary of his scheme.

Third Prize at Hope Bourne Poetry Competition,
Organised by Exmoor Society

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