For forty years he’s lived above the mill,
listened at night to the rushing outside
his window, through a narrow place of stone.
Damp lives in his bones. The moss smell
of weed and cress that rises from the stream,
the mist on the river in October, is always
on his clothes. His eyes are full of watery blue light
The wheel was burned in 1947.
An end to bags of flour sold for pennies,
the slow ritual of cogs, the copper
haze of dust. He is a curiosity, creaking
like the empty lofts. The caretaker,
who mows the adjacent field,
makes sure the race is never blocked, allows
children to paddle in the pebbled shallows.
When he falls asleep he hears the
long tread of water. All the tributaries
and ditches funnelling under his high tower.
The mirages it makes of faces,
the swimming rats, the dead dog he once found.
All the images in leaves and petals:
the symmetry of wheels, the peaceful tick of iron against wood.
That time has fallen away, and only lives
in the history he tells to those
who visit, to marvel at what was so simple,
so hand made, so connected to the land.
Which not even he can restore with the long sweep
of his broom across empty the threshing floor.
His scent of rain and bread.
The Millman is taken from the CD: Fen Song: A Ballad of the Fen.