Poem introduction

The next poem is called 'The Searchers'. At the time of the Moor Murders, I remember seeing on television news a whole line of men, policemen, crossing the moor because they were looking for the possible bodies of buried children, and they were probing with their sticks into the ground, with sharpened sticks, and sniffing at them. It seemed to me a very sinister and disturbing picture. This is called 'The Searchers'.

The Searchers

We see them on the television-screen,
Each shrunk by distance to a manikin,
Lined up across the moor. They seem to lean
Against the raking wind as they begin
Their slow advance; at every pace they pause
And plunge into earth before their toes
Their sharpened sticks; then each of them withdraws
His pointed probe and lifts it to his nose.
We know that they are sniffing for a trace
Of carrion from the scabbard of the ground,
And somewhere in that God-forsaken place
The murdered children lie and must be found.

Not on the screen but being watched by it
The man and woman move about the room,
Lift ornaments and put them down, then sit,
Though only briefly, in the curtained gloom,
Until they rise again and climb the stairs
And prowl around the house. They do not speak
And neither sees the pain the other bears,
Nor understands that what they both now seek,
In dazed, somnambulistic wandering
From room to room, will never be revealed:
Forgiveness, that intolerable thing,
Which all their guilt and suffering will not yield.

from The Black and White Days (Robson Books Ltd, 1996), copyright © Vernon Scannell 1996, used by permission of the author


Vernon Scannell

Vernon Scannell Reading from his Poems

1They Did Not Expect This

2The Lynching

3The Great War

4Walking Wounded

5A Case of Murder

6When we were Married

7A Song to Celebrate

8Growing Pain

9Spot-Check at Fifty

10The Loving Game

11Wicket Maiden

12The Bombing of the Cafe de Paris, 1941

13On Leave: May 1916

14Candle Reflections


16Drinking Up Time


18Casualty - Mental Ward

19Frying Tonight

20The Searchers

21Sunt Lacrimae Rerum

Books by Vernon Scannell