The Ice Factory

Philip Gross

"Not a great deal is known about this minor industry,which appears to have had a short life..."
Helen Harris,
The industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor


A hush like a shut Bible. father: "grace

will wait…" The latch clacks. l Our stare

lifts from our cold meat, from the empty place

to the door, and cousin Joseph. His chair

grates on the flags, and Father: "Now let us pray..."


            Who knew him? Slow

to speak or laugh, slow at the plough,

some kind of fool, they said. I'd go

to fetch him in from the topmost field:

"This place don't give us nothing free

but rain. So Father says." He smiled.


November: bitter drizzle. He

went up the hillside as the cloud came down.

December: snow penned us behind doors.

The first clear morning, we'd see thin

tracks, wavering slightly, up into the moor.

In March, I followed. Jumbled stone

in a windy hollow; black peat-water riffling;

a turf-wadded hut. "You've come alone?"

He prised the door. "Then look." Nothing,

I saw nothing,  or a glistening black, before

the ice-cold took my breath. His chill

smile:" Things aren't always where

they're needed. Are we, girl?"



he was gone. Was seen, halfway to town,

cart lumbering under bales of moss and straw,

steaming and dripping. "Taking water down,"

they laughed. "Thought that's what river's for."

Then nothing. Though the horse was found

by the docks where the tall ships come. All year

they traded stories- "mad", "enlisted", "drowned"

-and tell them still for any stranger's beer

since the farm's gone back to moor. And now

this flimsy envelope:"...New York". Inside,

"My father would have wished..."

                                           He was rich somehow;

had grandsons; mentioned me before he died.