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The Explorer



It’s interesting to rummage around in old folders and notebooks, looking for something useful that might be worth sending somewhere,

I found myself rolling the years back – at least ten years, discovering (it felt like that) poems which were remembered and recognised, but also discovering that they’d changed.  Or more accurately, I’d changed.  It was still me who wrote them, and they were still them, but we were both different.

I felt as though I was travelling upstream on a voyage of discovery – discovery not just of old poems, but of my earlier self. Here I was – or am – going back in time, when things were younger: striding against the flow of time, through years that had past.

One poem in particular gave me a metaphor.

I could see why I’d titled the poem ‘The Explorer.’

There’s something naturally attractive about the source of a river, as the great Victorian explorers discovered (you just have to use that word).  And the poem brought back that feeling of searching, of being on a journey of discovery.

Of course, this wasn’t an exploration for something not yet found: others had found it and been there – but it was fresh and new for me. The source of the Exe appears clearly marked on the map, but a sense of mystery lingers.  A mature and mighty river, finally over a mile wide, has to start somewhere: there’s a moment when even the largest of things doesn’t exist, and then it does. I wanted to find that place, which is appropriately high and wild.

The little poem returned me.

I remembered the start, walking gently uphill through good pasture, but soon the grass giving way to sedge and rushes, with fewer sheep and my awareness of the ground underfoot being softly full of water. Then the appearance beside the path of a gurgling stream, becoming smaller, quieter and shallower. And me, walking faster as it narrowed, anxious not to lose it. Then – with a hesitation or two – it disappearing into the hillside.  The sodden sponge of high Exmoor no longer able to hold onto this water – out it trickles, and the Exe is born.

East across to Preyway Meads, you can see a silver line of what is by now a real river winding away across the moor, calling upon others to join, into the green meadows of Devon, growing all the while and naming many a place as it passes on its way, on and on eventually to name the county’s capital city. Where we happened to once live, and where we started from.

It’s not only rivers that change as they grow and age, yet somehow remain the same. So here I am now with this re-discovered poem that was written by me a long time ago, after my own journey of discovery – both then, and now. 

I don’t think I’ll send it anywhere, but it has been an interesting exploration.

The Explorer


Everything has to start somewhere.
For the first time, I pursued
the grown river upstream.

Of course I found its source –
easy enough to follow water,
as it becomes younger

time can flow backwards
west into the sun.
Besides, it’s clear on the map.

Grasses roughen as I climb
ground so full of water
each footfall frees a stream.

Thus certainty is lost.
It narrows, hesitates, then
attracted by the hill is

gone – even as I find
its source, now absent,
but newly discovered.

Across the meads runs
the fresh Exe, in its own time
growing increasingly known.






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