Ian Heffernan





The Graveyard of the Old Asylum
East Lane, Leavesden

At autumn’s trailing edge I walked there,
Found it just where I recalled,
Near the jink of a country lane.

And seen through the antique lens
Of thirty years, it looked larger,
But more isolated, in disuse.

Its sparse-placed stones were still legible,
Though two which lay beside a tree
Had sacrificed their words to weather;

And nudging loose earth away with my foot
I saw again the little plaques
Set at intervals in the ground,

And how these were folding up their meaning,
Growing blank as the wardbound days
Of lives as imprecise as water;

Noticed too the coffin-length hollows
Where the soil had fallen in,
Each a trough for matted leaves.

I wandered round this battlescape,
Jarring my knees at every step
Until the left began to swell,

Then reaching the graveyard’s farthest edge,
Looked through a gap across bare fields
Towards the motorway beyond.

Half an hour was enough
In that obsolescent spot.
I turned to go, and as I did

I saw a fox dissolve in undergrowth,
Heard the rapid slap of wings,
The sudden futile fire of birdsong.





Ian Heffernan was born just outside London, where he still lives. He graduated from UCL and SOAS. He works with the homeless.

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