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Two poems from ‘Pennine Tales’.


Thousands of lights spread over valley and hill,
windows, street lamps, earth forms netted in lights.
And in the dark corridors between these lights
do the dead still go from door to door begging
for sustenance? Tell us it has not been all in vain.
And do the living-room lights then twinkle, are they
Co-operative lights? Or does a choir sing in the
dark distance, under the fabric of the town,
“We never thought it would come to this.”
It will come to more yet and take my cold hand.
The world tips slightly, the clock croaks Amen,
that we should see such clarity again.



Thousands of house rows and blocks of flats
spread over valley and hill, Blackburn, Accrington,
the Preston line across north of Manchester,
the living rooms displayed when it gets dark
and the train rides the embankment. Why so
powerless? Later a few farm lights on the black hill
and all this was once a field of action, a place
that mattered, by acts of combination where
free thought walks in the sky by day and night.
To arrive, to stay, to become old, to learn
the details, the stone paths strung over the hills,
the football record, when the goods trains pass through.

Fortnightly ReviewsPeter Riley, the poetry editor of The Fortnightly Review‘s New Series, is a former editor of Collection, and the author of fifteen books of poetry (including The Glacial Stairway [Carcanet, 2011]) – and some of prose. He lives in Yorkshire and is the recipient of a 2012 Cholmondeley Award for poetry.

Peter Riley’s latest books are Pennine Tales and Hushings (both from Calder Valley Poetry) and Dawn Songs (Shearsman, 2017). A collection of his ‘Poetry Notes’ columns has been collected in The Fortnightly Reviews: Poetry Notes 2012-2014, and published in 2015 by Odd Volumes, our imprint. An archive of his Fortnightly columns is here.

These are two consecutive poems from Pennine Tales.

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