We don’t hear. We don’t listen.

If every leaf were a prayer,
the world would sound
like a rustling of praise –
a fierce, joyful rustling –

the wind would spill love
from every tree –
love would grow new
every spring.

Each tree would be
a book, a tome,
reminding us of how

this mothering earth
nurtures us all.

The fields would murmur
the story of life,
the hedgerows would blossom
in psalms and ragas, chants –

the sky would be full of music,
words of praise would float
down every stream
down every river

we would be nourished
by words of love

a poem for Sherry at earthweal

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.

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.

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.

Spirit of the Commons

I see you, small child running,
kid brother braving Slidey Rock,
big sister on the big swing, I see you.

I see you, ladies smock, clover,
I see you, daisies, dandelions,
I see you. I see you, fox slinking,
rabbit nibbling. I see you,
dog-walker. I see you chatting.

I see you primrose, bluebell,
dog rose, stitchwort, campion.

I see you, cider kisses
in the Mayfair twilight,
I see you, young love
looking down on Lepers’ fields.

I see you, hawthorn frothing,
cow parsley foaming. I see you,
robin, blackbird, wren.

I see you, bird cherry,
petals drifting, I see you, acorn,
I see you, careful mother,
paddling toddler. I see you,
daredevil tree-climber,
den-builder, warrior.
I see you, staggering up
Barmaid’s path, I see you

ghosts on Roman Road;
I see you, half-believing
at the holy well, tying your
rag of coloured cloth.

I see you all.

We’re really lucky in Torrington that we have an actual commons. You can read about it here: https://www.torringtoncommons.org/ It’s a half-managed bit of half-wild land that half-circles the town. Kids play there, dogs are walked there, teenagers drink cider and get stoned, old folk walk on the flat bits. It borders on the Tarka Trail, where there’s cycling and strolling, and potential otter sightings. There’s a flat field at the top where there are car boot sales and a burger van, and Mr Hocking’s ice cream in the summer, and every few years there’s a massive, mad bonfire.http://www.torrington-cavaliers.co.uk/bonfire-2020-mayflower-1620/131-about-our-bonfire-29th-august-2020. (if you bother clicking that link – the ship is the bonfire!). It’s a really important bit of the town, used by everyone. Oh, and the big swing is terrifying.

Anyhow, this poem is for earthweal.

Wild

Photo by Ray Bilcliff on Pexels.com

There was nothing.
Wide emptiness:
The sea, the wind,
the waves, whipped and white,
and us, small in this vastness.

Wait.

Oyster catchers are calling. Wait.
They’re there, among the rounded stones,
neatly searching. And, suddenly,
an unexpected flock of plovers –
lifting – cutting through the horizontal
lines of sea and sky and strand –
flouncing and flickering –

and a herring gull dances
on the very edge of the wind;
and a curlew pauses for a second
and moves on. A cormorant spreads
black umbrella wings to dry –

this barren place is bountiful.

Sherry at earthweal asks us to write about the places that nourish our wild hearts. She’s very kindly used two of my poems in her prompt – I’m honoured and delighted – and it would seem churlish not to write a response! When I need wild, I go to the sea. I’m lucky to live close enough to get there easily. It’s always the same and always different.

I’m also posting this for Lisa’s OLN over at dVerse.

Silence

The bush with white flowers
is sometimes heavy
with the sound of bees

and the thrush
and the robin
and the blackbird
spill their song
like champagne
over-flowing

and even the rooks
make a comfortable sound

and children
in the playground

and the midnight bark
of the fox

and the fly insistent
against the window,
seeking light light light

and the lap of the ocean
on a shingle shore

and the green of a leaf
and a flower unfurling –

everything alive is singing
and I am singing – the blood
in my veins sings,
and my heart sings,
and my fingers sing
and the electric surges
of my nerves are songs
and the breath in my lungs
is a song is a song is a song

and I fear the silence.

Ingrid is hosting at earthweal. This is for her.

Dark – for earthweal

Firstly, it’s not that wild,
unless wild means still and quiet –
perhaps it does. Perhaps
it means becoming water
held with care. Something like water.
Or silence, and sleep, turning away
from everything, shutting out the world.

Perhaps it means dark shapes
that form and fall away – almost visible,
or soft sounds almost heard.

Lying, suspended, somewhere
between light and dark,
between air and water
between sound and silence –

thoughtless, because thoughts
are far too formed for this
contorted space.

Brendan at earthweal asks us to think about the wild dark, the place where inspiration lies.

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.”