Camellia

Your flower
a white handkerchief
fluttering in a flickering film –

your flower
open and beautiful, shivering
through wind and rain

saying nothing very much –
only that the world turns
that spring will come
that there is always something
some small light

some pale flower trembling

A poem of gratitude, for Sherry at earthweal. “Earthweal’s mantra is grief and hope.” 

Advent

We hung our stockings up so carefully –
wrote notes explaining we were good:
recycling. Cutting down on meat.

We put fresh bedding in the crib,
we put up lights and everything,
pinned angels to the sky,

cut down a tree. Lit candles.
Sat round the fire and talked
about the price of wool.

We watched the skies – saw
satellites slicing through the night,
singing their messages of joy –

we wrapped up gifts: gold-plated,
sweet flavoured,, heavy with scent –
and waited to be rescued.

Still no one comes.

An Advent poem for Brendan at earthweal.

Letter to the ice sheets

We thought you were death –
a sterile sheet covering
a corpse. I mean, men went to you
to die, monsters leaping
from floe to floe, men failing,
flailing, calling themselves heroes.

Now we know, you are the hero –
your embrace contains
the oceans, your cold arms
brace against the deluge –
you are not separate, you are part
of the great pattern –

and we are grubby idiots,
poking our sticks at things
that we don’t understand,
tearing and breaking. We are
shattering the web, stuffing
shreds of foolishness
into our gaping pockets –

we watch the polar bear
swimming towards the ice –
swimming and swimming.
Oh, we say, oh, it’s too much –
too sad.
We turn our backs –
eat one more cake,
drink one more can,
buy one more t-shirt.

We leave the room,
leave on the lights

A poem for Sherry at earthweal.

All souls

Move over. Let them come in.
They are there, clamouring at the edge of the light –
whispering their lives. Listen.
Move over. Let them touch you, their cold fingers
on your heart, their paws, their claws,
the soft brush of a feather. Let their leaves
fall on your face again.

There are not enough tears to put out these fires.
There are not enough tears to carry these boats
down the river to the sea. There are not enough tears.

All Souls, and the priests bless the graves
with smoke and words and water. This is far
from plastic webs and monster masks and eyeball candy.
We are somewhere else now, a place where grief
is love and love is grief and there are not enough tears

to wash away the mess we’ve made. There are not enough tears
to clean our hands. But here, in this place, for a moment,
there are only tears. What else can we give?

Let them in. Let them sit with you, guests at your table.
Let them eat your love. Let them drink your tears.
Let them feed you with their pale hands. Let them remind you
to love the world. To love the world enough, to seek out
beauty, to stand amazed. Let them love through you.

Here, we balance past and future. We are transient,
slipping through time, trailing dreams and memories.
We bury our seeds deep in the winter soil. We hope they will grow,
that the trees we plant will feed some future child,
that a blackbird will peck the topmost apple,
that the soil will take back the ones that fall,
that someone will wonder who planted this tree,
here, in this place. That someone will be touched
by our pale shadow, by the warm breeze of our lost breath.

Our earthweal prompt this week is the last of the Cross Quarter Celtic festivals – Samhain – All Souls’ Day – Halloween – the Day of the Dead. It seems to be a festival we need – we’ve held on to it for a long time. I’ve really enjoyed writing these Cross Quarter prompts. In fact, this was the start of the Celtic year, so I guess we’ve come full circle. If you’ve read these prompts, I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

The generosity of birds

By which I mean

The way the robin throws his song
out to the world

The way the herring gull
carves the sky

The way the starlings
create dreams

The way the wren
calls from the hedge

The way the pigeons
swagger across the city square

The way the goldfinch
embroiders a line
between tree and sky

The way the blackbird
melts the world into music

The way the cormorant
opens its wings its arms its heart
to the wind

The way the lark
sings only of summer

The way the buzzard
reminds us to trust the sky

A poem for Brendan at earthweal, celebrating biodiversity.

Stumbling on beauty

That summer, I became adept
at finding beauty. I reached out
for it – the clean-scrubbed nails
on the nurse’s fingers. They were beautiful.
The green flesh of an avocado;
a spider’s web, caught in a hedge –
all beauty. I held it like a trophy.
I was so greedy for the loveliness
of a child swinging in a playground,
of a light caught in water
of a bird turning on emptiness –
I collected it, collated it, I held it tightly,
threw it high, up into the air, like
cherryblossom or confetti, like the light
that shatters through the branches of a tree.

I am more than flattered to feature in this week’s earthweal prompt. Sherry reminds us to look for beauty, to show Mother Earth our joy.

Names on a map

This is our coastline. We have mapped it,
claimed it with feet and eyes and breath:
Skerne, where we saw the sparrow hawk,
the place where the cormorants
hang their black wings out to dry,
the rounded cobbles, mapped with barnacles;
and Sandymere, where I’ve seen fish
thrown up and dancing in the cresting waves;
and Westward Ho! – all fish and chips
and ice-cream cones, and serious rock pools.
Abbotsham and Peppercombe, Bucks Mills –
deep valleys running to the sea,
steep wooded walls and bluebells
and a badger, once. Fairy Cross
and Blackchurch Rock and Hartland Quay,
where the sun drops heavily
behind the sloping rock
and all the cliffs are carved back,
stripped to the deep past.
Shipload Bay is seals and sandwiches –
then Welcombe Mouth, Gull Rock
and Crackington, and Sandymouth:
Pebbles and sandy feet and
salt-caked skin. Herring gulls and peregrines.
The day the swallows came.
The sea claws at the land here,
seal-grey, scouring at angles,
carving, carving. We have left
our laughter here, our voices
calling, calling. We’ve left our fading
photographs and sea-bleached stories
to be washed clean and worn away.

For Sherry, at earthweal, who asks us to say the names of the places we care about.

Ash Die-back

Yggdrasil is dying.
I’ve seen it – 
branches bare as arms
reaching towards the sky. 

Trees scream silently,
carrying the heavens
in their branches, 
weaving the world
with their roots –

what happens now?
Yggdrasil fumbles, falls -
worlds drift away -
the gods slip into darkness -
frost and fire and flood -

and where will we find wisdom
now Yggdrasil is dying?
Whose arms will we hang in?
Only emptiness. 

Brendan at earthweal invites us to write about trees. Here in Devon, our ash trees are dying. They are such a massive, ancient part of our landscape – the countryside round here is going to look very different in 5, 10 years’ time. I’ve been part of a project called the Ode to the Ash Tree Project. As an extra bonus, here’s a video of Katy Lee performing my poem Devon Ash. You CAN watch the video – just click where it says Watch on Vimeo.

End Times

I’m cat-stretched on the patio –
cool drink, warm stones –
and we’re star-watching.
They ease gently into view,
the ancient stars, deep history –
and the satellites. We count them, idly.
Will they be there forever, too?
Is that how they will know –
those aliens who come visiting
in some far future – that we
were here? The junk that circles
this blue planet?

Half the world’s burning
half is drowning.
Half the world’s grieving,
half’s just greeding – we
are dancing on the edge,
unseeing. It’s like we crave
oblivion.

Our swollen bellies
filling up with plastic,
the ocean drowning in it.
Half the time I’m sickened
by myself, my own consuming –
I try, I fail, I fall, I try again.
Lay me out. Satellite me
with my junk. How
would you ever find me?
How would I reach you?

It’s earthweal time, and this week we are all getting very excited about the Anthropocene Hymnal, brainchild of our very own Ingrid Wilson. She’s been very open about the amount of work needed to create an anthology, and I’m really looking forward to reading this. All profits will go to WWF. The cover is by Kerfe Roig, and it’s a thing of beauty. You can read Brendan’s interview with Ingrid here: https://earthweal.com/2021/07/19/a-poetry-that-does-not-compromise-the-anthropocene-hymnal/