‘Cloth ears’, my mum used to call me
when I got selectively deaf about an instruction,
or when I was absorbed with my nose in a book.
‘Oi, cloth ears!’. I’m talking to you.’
And it’s only recently I realized
where the phrase came from.
Mill workers, deafened by the roar of machinery ,
young ears, damaged beyond repair,
cotton cloth in exchange for hearing.
I am thinking of all this
as I trudge up the steep slopes of Ingleborough
on a path made of old stone slabs
taken, I’m told, from the local mills
when they closed down,
feet from bog, and bog from feet.
For a moment my feet
connect with those
who trod these stones
over a century ago.
Day after day,
year after year,
toiling at the loom.
The wind sighs and a raven croaks,
the path twists through a soundscape,
that they could only imagine.