In the worst hour of the worst season of the worst year of a whole people a man set out from the workhouse with his wife. He was walking – they were both walking – north. She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up. He lifted her and put her on his back. He walked like that west and west and north. Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived. In the morning they were both found dead. Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history. But her feet were held against his breastbone. The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her. Let no love poem ever come to this threshold. There is no place here for the inexact praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body. There is only time for this merciless inventory: Their death together in the winter of 1847. Also what they suffered. How they lived. And what there is between a man and woman. And in which darkness it can best be proved.
Where an ash bush grows in the lake a ring of stones has broken cover in this summer's drought. Not high enough to be an island, it holds a disc of stiller water in the riffled lake. Trees have reclaimed the railway line behind us; behind that, the road goes east— as two lines parallel in space and time run away from us this discovered circle draws us in. In drowned towns bells toll only for sailors and for the credulous but this necklace of wet stones, remnant of a wattle Atlantis, catches us all by the throat. We don't know what beads or blades are held in the bog lake's wet amber but much of us longs to live in water and we recognise this surfacing of old homes of love and hurt. A troubled bit of us is kin to people who drew a circle in water, loaded boats with stone, and raised a dry island and a fort with a whole lake for a moat.