Chadlington Village, Hampshire
The missing girl’s name was Elizabeth Gill.
She was 12 when she disappeared.
She was last seen wearing a pink jumper.
The villagers kept vigil. Prayers,
curled with the cold, drifted and strayed.
Doors were locked. Rumours spread.
Police divers slipped into the lake by the hill.
Come Autumn, the sheep are fearful. They
scatter, champing on panics of sun. Mr Tilley and
the old dog guide them into the other field.
After the storm, leaves collect in the warm
ditches. Somewhere in the dark, the gilt eyes
of foxes open. Here, where things live and perish.
Jordan and Dave soon marry. Jordan’s curls
are starred with buttercups and lilies. Jan gossips
that the couple are far too young for love.
They marry on the village green. Behind the poplars,
a flutter of wind ruffles a thin, pink sweater.
At night there are dreams about where the girl might be.
Dreams about her ghosting the moor.
Dreams about her rising from the lake,
blue of cheek and lung.
Tomatoes swell in June. Soon the fruit flushes red.
Jan and Tom collect wild herbs; thyme, bay, sage.
Ken eats straight from the pan, refuses to
wash his hands beforehand.
Tom touches the steak on his dinner plate
with a finger, watches the blood seep.
With July comes the Summer Fete.
Chinese lanterns dazzle at dusk to charm the crowd.
Someone has laid out drinks. A sandalwood scent
perfumes the air filled with champagne laughter.
In the background a brass band toots and booms.
Young Kerry flaunts two pink roses;
one at her hip, one on her breast.
She and Dina dance to the beat,
dance into the shadow of a black poplar,
where the girl was last seen.
Another Spring, another March, another month
Jan scolds her crocuses - don’t open!
Remember, Spring just isn’t Spring anymore!
On Wednesday, a thin man is seen
and he’s moving through the wheat.
But maybe he’s the Father. It’s hard to know
in this light. He keeps coming back
to the place he remembers most.
All of the Junes go by like gusts of milkweed
and still the girl is missed. There are sightings:
Mrs Tilley saw her at the visitor centre
buying a Magnum ice-cream.
In August, heat rises in mists of gold.
Some suspect the cow field to harbour
secrets and aren’t shy to voice their opinions.
From a window across the green, Tom watches
Kerry undress in a pool of yellow bedroom light.
Butterfly eggs are laid on a leaf’s veined spine.
The missing girl’s name was Elizabeth, or Liz or Lizzy.
She has not been forgotten.
She has been looked for in the lambing sheds, in the lofts,
in the lake by the hills.
Mrs Tilley’s dog finds her stained skirt.
Whilst the village is sleeping, moths breathe in the green,
flit from lit to shadow, from seen to unseen.
Natalie Crick is in her second year of studying for an MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University. Her previously published poetry includes ‘We Are Nothing But Afraid’ – The Moth (Issue 33, Summer 2018), ‘I See You’ – Bare Fiction (Issue 11, July 2018) and ‘Suburbia’ – The Manchester Review (Issue 20, July 2018). ‘Chadlington Village, Hampshire’ was written following a workshop ran by poet Sean O’Brien, and is inspired by one of her favourite novels, Reservoir 13, by Jon McGregor.
Carol Ann Duffy said: ‘Chadlington Village, Hampshire’ by Natalie Crick is incredibly haunting, with those images of a girl lying somewhere unseen – ‘behind the poplars’ – while her contemporaries move on with their lives. I liked the use of small details in this poem, ‘the gilt eyes of foxes’, ‘steak on his dinner plate’.