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/

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.