For Winnie Johnson and Keith Bennett



You dream of cottongrass

of threaded ghosts of baby’s hair,

white water spilled on blackstone grit.


You know that you will never know

where your boy is, has been

this forty year and more;


you know this as you know

the iron and salt of hot rare meat

the smell of his skull, his skin.


Thin winds pick among the rags

and bones of brittle heather,

sunken jaggers’ roads;


trouble dammed black waters,

the sour weeping of turned turfs

that won’t give up what’s held


where men in raincoats walk

in ragged lines with long white rods

testing the depth and smell


of the peat the way a shepherd

probes drifted Pennine snow

for buried sheep that eat their own fleece


You knew such things could be,

breathed vowels. Air.

Now you know nothing else —


the texture of a house

this pale moth-knowing

in a shadowed room,


ringed by black moors, dark humps:

tumbled cairns that mock

the lost, that will not show the way


(First published in “Much Possesssed” smith|doorstop 2016)


At the time of her death in 2012, almost 50 years after Keith went missing, her son, Allan said:

“Winnie fought tirelessly for decades to find Keith and give him a Christian burial.

“Although this was not possible during her lifetime, we, her family, intend to continue this fight now for her and for Keith. We hope that the authorities and the public will support us in this.”

Ian Brady died in prison today, without ever revealing where Keith lies buried.



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