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/

I went to the sea

I took it all with me
the grief and the anger and the fear
and she took it
like she takes all our shit
and she smoothed it
the way she might smooth a stone or a piece of glass
and she cradled me
the way a mother might cradle a frightened child
and her pulse
was my pulse

and I left with it all
the grief and the anger and the fear
a little smoother now
a little easier to carry

For Sherry at earthweal. Hard times.

June dreaming

It’s June, and I’m dreaming of roses –
roses that murmur
in all shades of pink,
from the whispers of kisses
to the bright brazen hussies
that hang over the path.

There are roses here
for all of your dreams:

the striped ones,
that trumpet
a thousand big tops,
tatty but tempting,

or that pure white wildling
escaped from the hedgerow
that carries me homeward,

or, buxom and wholesome,
the rambler that climbs,
and blushes and nods
as you enter the gate

or the red one that carries
the rich smell of wine,
and the softness of lipstick,
the warmth of a dress,
the gloss of a nail. .

I could drown here, you know,
I could drown in this garden, that’s
heavy with petals heavy with rain.

It’s June.
and I’m drowning in roses.

Dreaming for the solstice with earthweal.

The art of cutting back

This is our craft: we cut, we prune, we thin –
we carve away unnecessary stone.
We open up the space that lets the light flow in.

We card the wool, we comb it, and we spin
stories. And then we cut them to the bone.
This is our craft. We cut, we prune, we thin.

We paint our canvases, we keep the colour thin,
as if the shadows that we see have blown
and opened up the space that lets the light flow in.

We write our poems, verses clear as gin,
and cool as ice, compact as cherry stones:
This is our craft; we cut, we prune, we thin.

We prune our orchards, treat our trees as kin,
we tend to them because they are our own,
we open up the space that lets the light flow in.

We are the guardians, firm against the wind
that breaks and tears, that seeks to overthrow –
this is our craft – we cut – we prune – we thin –
we open up the space that lets the light flow in.

For Brendan at earthweal. I thought I’d write a villanelle, as that feels like a crafted form.

I’m also putting it up for Laura’s dVerse prompt on repetition. Do check out both prompts – both are consistently interesting, exciting and inspiring!

Sanctuary

The slap slap slap
of wood pigeon
dropping, then rising
from the pine tree
reminds us that we
are only visiting.

This blue wood
is ours for one more week
before our neighbour
runs his bullocks here:
earth-heavy, slow,
they are the guardians
of these sacred groves.

We are just visiting,
drinking in scent,
our footsteps murmuring
prayers to the
angled sunlight.
We whisper here.

An owl spreads silence.
We are watching,
gazing, all eyes;
all ears; all sense
opened up. Tjese
dappled spaces
form our sanctuary.

For Brendan at earthweal. I’m back. Sort of.

Deer

Meeting her gaze –I want her to see
sisterhood — I want to say
“Look, I’m scared, too, I’m prey —
the shrapnel spinning slow-motion
in my chest — unravelling me”

but she sees the stone tipped spear
the bronze headed arrow, the
cross-bow bolt.

— Some slight

movement of mine, some twitch
sway breath — an explosion
— of movement

— she is gone

For Brendan at earthweal, where we are meeing nature’s gaze.

The god kings don’t believe in death

The god kings gather their grave goods

a spearhead
a bronze arm ring
seven arrow heads

as if they can build a wall

a jade figurine
a clay jar containing herbs
a gold disc

between themselves and death

a pot of spelt
a terracotta figure of a horse
a silver leaf

as if they need to feed

a sheaf of flax
a woven blanket
a twisted torc

as if they need to serve

a leather purse
a bunch of keys
a jewelled pin

their souls on that long journey

a jet brooch
a bundle of poems
a lock of hair

but we look at their bones

a MacBook
a mountain bike
a paddle board
a Starbucks cup
an inflatable mattress
a Samsung Galaxy
a pair of trainers
a Big Mac and fries

and know that their souls starved.

For Brendan at earthweal.

Tiger

Death is my sister
beside me, slipping
silent through
the jungle. She
sharpens my teeth,
polishes my claws,
and I lead her
to the red scent
of life, and
together we eat.

But now, I feel
her cold hands
measuring the
space between

my ribs, and soon
I will turn to her
and offer her
my throat.

For earthweal, where Sherry asks us to think about the world of big cats.

Footprints in the snow

I don’t ask if you remember
those footprints in that cave –
mother and child, walking.
I wonder if she took a moment
to look back at where they’d walked,
or if she kept on moving,
eyes fixed ahead.

Our footprints will be gone
by lunchtime – washed away,
meltwater merging into mud,
and looking back, it’s hard to know
which of us is mother, which
is child. You’ve grown.
Sneaked up on me, like time.

This is for Brendan’s earthweal challenge on Deep Time. There’s a bit of synchronicity here – I had a poem called “Pech Merl” published in Black Bough’s Deep Time II collection last year. Walking in the snow at the weekend with my son reminded me of the parent and child footprints we saw in the caves there, several years ago. I had that in my head trying to be a poem, and then Brendan’s prompt came along. If you’re interested, there is a Deep Time soundtrack with lots of great poetry readings here: https://soundcloud.com/stuartrawlinson/sets/black-bough-poetry-deep-time