As I Like It

Far from jealous city windows, it’s safe – 
away from everything but the weather.
The recurring nag of the winter’s wind
wraps tight around my body in exile.

I ease into such an honest embrace.
Reduced now to a numb ice-element,
I move against invisible pressure,
find myself a place, draw myself closer.

The sucking mud roots me far from people
and shines with such precious light that my heart
barely ghosts a presence beyond whispers
in the branches, rivers scoring stories.

A clear and honest lesson is written
on the weathered rock. I would not change it.

About the poem

This poem appeared in anthology Chalk Poets: New Poetry from the South Downs, produced for the Winchester Poetry Festival

This poem was one of three completed as part of a commission from the Winchester Poetry Festival to create work inspired by the South Downs and in particular the chalk landscape. As part of my research for this project, I read the wonderful book A Poet's Guide to Britain, edited by Owen Sheers. The book examines different aspects of the British landscape and the corresponding poetic responses. In this collection, I found a section from Shakespeare's As You Like It - Act II, Scene 1 in which the Duke, on reaching the forest of Arden pronounces, "Are not these woods / More free from peril than the envious court?" I started out by rewriting the section from a modern perspective and in so doing, uncovered a fresh perspective. As an introvert, I move between being sociable and needing what I consider to be the safety of solitude. Both Shakepeare's lines and my own version can refer both to physical and emotional exile and the two are linked in my imagination by the landscape of the Downs, where I sometimes send myself into exile from the "jealous city windows" and the "envious court."