earthweal guest weekly challenge: LOST WORDS


via earthweal guest weekly challenge: LOST WORDS

Brendan at earthweal has given me the chance to guest host there this week. Earthweal is a growing poetry community focusing on the welfare of our planet. It’s attracted some great poets and some great poetry, and I’m proud to be part of it.

Climbing a beech tree in your parents’ garden

You will come to a place
where you can stop,
back pressed against the trunk –
a place where you can feel
your soft limbs branch and stiffen,
and the sap pulsing under
your skin, and all your thoughts
are nests and breezes,
and the taste of sunlight,
and the tree holds you here,
like a father holds a child –

Or maybe
your father hoists you up
onto his strong shoulders,
so you can peer through
the green leaves of his hair,
over the fence to where
next-door’s cat lolls in the sunshine
and the old lady jabs
at her flowerbed

and now two butterflies
spiral up towards you
and a bird swoops in
to land upon a twig

and no-one else can see
the tree-ness of you.

I’m hosting at earthweal this week, and asking you to think about how children connect with nature. Or adults, I guess. Beech is one of the Lost Words. There was a big old copper beech tree in my childhood garden – a person in its own right.

I’m driving to stand outside my mother’s house

and the radio’s talking
about locusts
blunt heads, big eyes

clouds of hunger,

swarms plagues storms

and I wonder,
how heavy is a locust?
a single locust?
skin crisp and shiny
emerging from itself

yellow is such an ugly colour

and the rattle of wings –
how does that sound?
billions of wings, beating
and billions of mouths,
too much,
and all those thin legs,

For Brendan at earthweal, who has given us the theme of “Strange World”. It does seem like we are getting down to some pretty fundamental stuff at the moment. Fire and flood and plague and locusts eating East Africa. Things are off kilter, to say the least.

Going into the sacred grove in summer

I look up for the light.
We’re all craning for the light,
me and the trees –
the skinny saplings,
younger than my boots;
the big old beech,
that’s older than my soul –
we reach up
in this hushed place,
even the nettles.
We are hushed.

I’m experimenting with titles. I’ve always been a bit shy about my titling (don’t want to promise more than I can deliver!) but now I’m trying to be playful with them, to see them as part of the poem, or as a piece in their own right. Anyhow, that’s why the title is almost as long as the poem here.

This is for Brendan at earthweal,who asks us to write about sacred landscapes. I’m sure I’ve mentioned our sacred groves before. Beara means “sacred grove”, apparently. The farm up the lane is called Beara, and there are certainly a few odd shaped bits of woodland that have never been incorporated into fields…interesting…probably not sacred any more, but good for wildlife. We have one in the top corner of our property, grown up around a spring…oh yes. I live with nymphs.

Rook’s not my mother –

she has her own chicks to rear
to raise in the way of the
long feather
beak thrust
throat call
crowd muster

rook’s not my friend
she has her own companions

rook sees me
wide striding
earth bound
leaf plucking
not predator
not prey

she cocks her head
eyes me up
rises easy
flaps away

A rook poem, for the dVerse Open Link Night – hosted by Mish this week – and for earthweal, where Sherry is holding the fort.

Encounter: hare.

Her world and mine are different –
they weave and thread around each other –
her stories told in sounds and scents
that I’m too dulled to grasp,
my world of words and words,
and blades and wheels
and engine noise.

So when we meet like this –
me at the gate, her in the deep path
carved by the tractor,
shaded by the green growth
of the maize – all we can offer
is a silence. Her silence
is the wisdom of the prey,
a risk assessment. Mine
is the silence of enchantment.
I seek to trap her
with my gaze, my fascination,
my delight. She’s wondering
if I bite.

Our worlds touch.

Something changes –
a wren trills an alarm call,
a quad-bike starts up
half a mile away. She moves.
Stops. Waits. An ear flics. She moves on,
up to the hedge line,
through some secret passageway, and off.

I wait, of course,
hoping that she’ll return,
knowing she’s gone,
a shimmering absence,
forming a different silence –
a small void, and then
it all moves on,
the rook caws, the cow bellows,
and the world spills in.

Sherry is hosting earthweal this week, and asks us to think about encounters, meetings, communions with the natural world.


we orphaned ourselves
poor foolish monkeys
clinging to a metal frame
searching for comfort

we caged ourselves
barcode walls and copper floors
and the endless tap tap
on the keyboard

we shrank
to fit the small space
we had made

pulled in hands
arms legs feet
eyes down
eyes turned away

we called it freedom
and said we chose it
so it must be true

but oh

reach out now

I’m reaching out
my hand to yours
my fingers tip to tip
with yours

look up
look at me
open yourself
to the world again

I’m a guest host at Earthweal this week. I’m very excited to see what poems people produce. One of the things I really love about Earthweal is the fact that the prompt is open for a week. Those prompts are slow burners, the poems need time to bubble around down there in the subconscious. I wouldn’t normally post so early, but I had a heads-up on this one…

How to be a poet in a burning world.

Trees whisper through their roots

maybe they’re screaming –
I don’t know

I guess they’re talking of the basic things –
there’s water here
there’s food
we’re threatened

but maybe they have long, slow stories
unfolding over decades,
their deep thoughts moving
through the liquid dark
from tree to tree

we use the wind
our words spread out like pollen
fragile and indiscriminate
carried through the air
I love you
love you too
we’re short of milk

and what’s a poem, anyway?
More words. There’s water here,
there’s food. We’re threatened.
We are threatening. We eat ourselves,
dirty the water. Maybe we’re screaming.
I don’t hear it.
Where do my words go? Drifting.
Do they spread out like fireweed,
following the old lines, filling up
bomb sites. Am I softening things?
Making them bearable?

Slow-burning words, my poems,
sparks falling onto sodden wood.
There’s water here. There’s food.
We’re threatened. I still love you.

For Brendan at Earthweal.  Wondering how we write poetry as the world convulses, and why. How do write purposefully, sufficiently?

This stubborn place

This is a stubborn place, I’d say.
Old names live on here. Bits of wild
cling to steep hillsides, linger
in forgotten corners.

Three nights ago we saw a hare
lop-lollying along the ridges
in the maize field. I wonder
what she thinks of our machines,
our lines. We carve the landscape,
make divisions, demarcations.

Up on the hill, the farm name holds
the memory of a sacred grove.
Scrabbled scruffy stands of ash and oak
are still held sacred – never cut.
Our hedgerows are all tangled sanctuaries –
blackthorn, hazel, haw –
small creatures hiding, homing there.

Last night an owl swooped silent
across Nick and Jennie’s field,
clipping the long grass, almost.
We watched him scouting,
criss-crossing the scrubby corner
where the lane turns east.

Things are a little tatty here.
There’s space for nesting sparrows,
jackdaws crank call from the bottom barn,
and the rooks nest all along
the field’s top corner, and beyond.
You’ll see them march
across the slurried fields.
Leatherjackets, that’s what
they’re after, beaks plunged
in the smelly ground.

we’ll meet a deer, tip-toeing.
Wildness ebbs and flows –
a field left fallow,
a field ploughed,
an old hedge lost
to trees. A lane forgetting
it was ever paved.

We make accommodations here.
We let the nettles grow,
the brambles fling their skinny arms out.
We are not too fussy.
Well, we can’t afford to be –
you turn your back round here
and the wild slips back,
whispering old stories,
old secrets, trailing
old scents, remembering.

A poem for Brandon at Earthweal. I’m lucky to live in a rural backwater. I’ve been angry for a while now, at so many things happening in the world. I’ve given myself a break in this one, and indulged myself, revelling in the beauty of the world around me.

walking with the goddess

I’ve walked with the goddess, yes,
in these deep lanes. I’ve smelled
her dark scent – shit and honeysuckle –
felt her hush before the hare –

I’ve seen her dancing
in the desert eyes
of the man who showed me
where I saw

her hands on mine
planting gathering
feeding the good soil

her laughter in the
flicksilver darting of the fish
her rainbow tears

I’ve met her broad-hipped
by the slow river, easy,
seen her walk before me
in the bare rocky places
where life hides in cracks
and crevices

I am a thread
in her great cloak

a cell in her
warm body

so small
and so beloved

Sherry is hosting at Earthwealthis week, reminding us to sing love songs to Mother Earth – if we don’t love her, how can we save her?