KATRINA PORTEOUS’S lines are not just about the delights of bramble-gathering in a post-industrial landscape, but an oblique elegy for the vanished iron and steel industry of Consett.

Her poem is in Radio 4’s compendium of poems on The Seasons (Faber, £8.99), and came originally from The Lost Music (Bloodaxe Books, 2000).  


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                         for Jo

On the high iron railroad they drag their barbed wires
Through ditches, and twist
Up paths that look down over Consett, its fires gone out.
You are too young to remember.

But the sky is the colour of cold iron.
There is slag underfoot.
The hawthorn grows rusty. The dock rattles its seeds
Down the steep track.  Each September,

Every year of our lives, Jo, we’ve climbed up here with buckets
Where there the fat berries blacken on clinker.
The urge to pick them comes stronger than hunger.
Very soon, it says, it will be winter.

So fill your pails now for the time when there will be no blackberries.
Go home. Bottle them up,
Black as the midnight sky above the ironworks
Flaring red before the furnace doors clashed shut;

And over the sweet steam of the jam-pan, dream of December
And blackberries in February, and the shoots that already
Shove through the dust a gift from the dead to the living,
Older than words, Jo. As old as loving.