When we saw the chough at Lands End.

Chattering stopped
as the bird flew past
beneath our feet –
slicing a way
between us and the sea –

that beak a red flame –
that curved beak a blade
to cut the armour
of the sky

black feathers salted
by seaspray, harsh cry
echoing across
the Irish Sea

This bird, making itself
a gift to us, lighting a fire,
leaving us silenced.

A corvid poem for Ingrid at dVerse. Regular readers will know that I have written many, many poems about rooks, and the odd one about magpies, so I wanted to branch out. I’ve only had one chough encounter, at Lands End in Cornwall. They feature on the Cornish coat of arms, but they are now quite rare (though increasing in number) having been lost to Cornwall for nearly 40 years. There are lots of myths about choughs – that they are fire starters (hence the red beak and legs) but – more positively – that when King Arthur was lost to us, he didn’t die but became a chough. It’s unlucky to kill one. They are associated with the Celtic speaking coastlines – Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, Scotland. I had no idea how rare they were when we saw them, so I was excited then, and even more excited when I realised how lucky we had been!

https://youtu.be/oBOgoFoozEU

Green Deserts

My Dad remembers fields
like tapestries, embroidered
with wild flowers.
He remembers golds and pinks,
purples and blues; and butterflies
and hovering bees –
the humming meadows.

Here, there are green deserts –
cut and sprayed and ploughed
and planted every year –
rye grass, bright green and lush
and dead. Wild flowers banished
to the hedgerows – bees following
the paths we follow, skirting the fields.

My Dad remembers cuckoos,
corn buntings, tree sparrows,
turtle doves. These green deserts
are almost silent. Only the rooks,
patrolling, and the winter fieldfare.

My Dad remembers hares hiding
in the long grass of the meadows;
deer stepping dainty in the twilight,
a kestrel quartering the field.
These green deserts are still,
only the wind blowing through
the lifeless grass, and the rain falling.

I’m lucky to live in a rural area where we have lush hedgerows and neglected patches of woodland. However, even here farming practices are not ideal for the environment. We visited a local garden today where they have re-created wildflower meadows. Last time I visited with my Dad he told me that was how fields were when he was young – I hadn’t realised it was so recently that we lost our traditional meadows. This is for earthweal, where we’re thinking about extremes. The uniform green fields around here ARE extreme – a massive change within living memory.

A taste of summer

I just bought my first strawberries of the season. They smell so good. On the way home, in the warm car, I held them on my lap while my husband drove. The car filled up with that sweet strawberry scent.

We grow a few strawberries – little wild ones that self-seed round the garden – looking for them feels like a treasure hunt – and bigger ones that are lost to wildlife half the time. They’re all still white petalled flowers at the moment – not even tiny, hard, green fruit. The berries I bought were grown in a greenhouse in Herefordshire – small, artificial summers. Today, I don’t care. We’ll eat them with cream and a sprinkling of sugar, and we’ll know that summer is just around the corner. We’re teetering on the edge of it, ready to fall.

sunshine
the dancing of bees
ripening fruit

A haibun for Frank at dVerse. We’re considering summer…

Winter shore

Short winter days. I crave
light dancing on seawater,
low flight of shearwater

The salt taste of seaspray
sinks deep into my bones,
oystercatcher, turnstones –

the murmur of each wave
of birds that skims along
the winter shoreline. Their cold song –

how can I keep away
from the grey rocks, and
dark water, and the sand,

from the white shore and the tideway,
and the far cry of the gull,
and the pull of the tide. That pull.

Short winter days, I crave
the salt taste of seaspray,
the murmur of each wave.
How can I keep away
from the white shore, and the tideway?

It’s Thursday, it’s Meet the Bar, and Bjorn is the dVerse host. Tonight we’re doing a form – the Constanza. You can read more about it here: https://dversepoets.com/2022/05/19/meet-the-bar-with-the-constanza/

Poets love to write about the moon.

Give me the moon, the silver moon,
light my way with a silver light –
let me feast on slivers of silvery cake,
on silver crescents of silver lemons,
floating in silver cups, on a silver tray.
This morning, she burned everything –
armfuls of dandelions and buttercups,
bundles of letters, piles of clothes.
She laughed, and told me she loves the sun –
burn everything, she says, burn my poems –
they’ll warm the world. Burn everything, then,
but leave me this cool garden, purpled
with twilight, a stream of silver winding
like thread. Leave me a statue, a star;
fish me a silver coin from the well,
fish a white pebble from the river,
pick a white lily from the lake,
and give me the moon.

Lillian is hosting at dVerse tonight, and we’re compounding – or, rather, de-compounding. There are 3 compound words taken apart in here – moonlight, sunburn and starfish.

Waking in a strange room

Maybe it’s that moment
when you wake from sleep
and the world is suddenly strange –
glistening with
noises that shimmer at the edge of sight –
heavy with light that presses on your skin –
the smell of sunshine, lemons, clockwork –
that moment is the one
that really matters,
that changes everything

I’m hosting for Quadrille Monday at dVerse tonight – and our word is “sleep”. But I kind of had to subvert my own prompt! Come and join us, anyway. Quadrilling is fun.

The ash trees

The ash are late this year –
bundles of sticks, rattling up
into the blue sky. We search
for feathery tufts. Sometimes
we see them, sometimes

nothing.

I’ve never known the ash so late,
dark lines scraped across
a billowing, pillowing world of green.

They’re dying. I hadn’t thought
that this would come so quickly –
imagined a slow drift of ghosts
across the landscape –
when I thought of it at all –
not these monuments, scattered,
solid, sharp-edged. No, not this
memento mori, these bone branches
shouting “look at me, look at me”.

Nature will fill in the gaps, and
we’ll forget the avenue of chestnut trees,
the stand of larch, the ash, the ash, the ash,
the tree that holds the world,
the tree where gods hang, waiting for wisdom.

for Brendan at earthweal. It’s full on spring here, getting ready for summer, and the ash trees are still not out. It’s very strange. Ash die-back is here, stalking our copses, and I can’t help feeling that the landscape is undergoing a radical change. It’s a small thing, and yet, it’s a big thing. The canary in the mineshaft, maybe? Ash trees are a defining part of our Devon landscape. I can list a dozen ash placenames off the top of my head.

May Day

I have spent too long in this tower, buried in books and grief. I know the seasons by the need for a fire in the grate, a candle in the morning, the way the light moves across the floor. It’s time, now. I have mourned enough. It’s time to take up my life again, emerge into the light, slow and blinking – for how can I be sure I shall see again?


The world on the first of May is a glowing thing, a green and dancing place. Before I left it, I was a green and dancing girl. Now I’m something else, something cracked and strange – but still the world calls me – the green light through the leaves, the scent of May blossom. I have wept and hidden from the world, and now it is time to dance again.

Bring me my green gown.

A prosery for Merril at dVerse. A prosery is a 144 word flash form, containing a line from a poem. Today, Merril has given us

“For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May”

–From “May Day” by Sara Teasdale

Danger

I miss
talking to you –
just words, tumbling spillling –
building pathways, bridges, doorways
for us

instead,
we’re building walls,
smooth and pale as marble,
so high it’s hard to reach and place
new stones

and yet
we bring out steps
we make the effort, climb
ladders, raise those white walls ever
higher

we carve
harsh words, shed tears
into the stone. We set
our fear, our anger, solidly
too deep

we need
catastrophe
fire, flood, storm, something fierce –
reminding us of what we stand
to lose

A Crapsey cinquain for Laura at dVerse.

Spirit

“There’s red deer up on Thornhill Head” he says.
“They’ll take a crop, a group like that. But beautiful”.
He offers cider with a mole-spread hand.
“I’ve seen more hares the last two years. And hedgehogs.
Things are coming back. Red deer on Thornhill Head”.
His eyes are very blue. He shakes his head.
“Now, starlings. They’re a bugger. What a mess.
What can you do?”. He leaves wide edges
on his fields, cuts hedges later than his father did.
He put up boxes for the swifts. He smiles,
straddling the wild and the farmed, holding
it all in balance, in these soil-stained hands.
Owned by the land, the ripe curves of it,
the steep-sided valleys, where the woods
shelter wild daffodils and bluebells,
and the gentler slopes for cattle and for maize.
You have to make a living. Then again,
you have to love this place. He smiles again.
“Red deer on Thornhill Head. That’s wonderful”.

This is for Brendan at earthweal. He asks us to think about the spirit of the place we live in.

This weekend we went on our village Scrumpy Stroll. It’s an annual event, though we haven’t held it since before covid (BC?). It’s a 4 mile walk, with several stops on the way to drink cider delivered by a 4-wheel drive. The local farmers organise it, and it’s a chance to see bits of land you wouldn’t normally access. I got talking to one of the local farmers, Steve, and when this challenge came up, I immediately thought of him. His family have farmed locally for many many years – like all our local farmers. He knows this land. He tries to find a balance between his needs as a farmer, and the land’s needs. He doesn’t always get it right. And he’s right about the starlings – they gather round his barns in the hundreds for weeks on end. Quite a sight from a distance, not so much fun for his wife putting out the washing.