Our theme for submissions in April relates to the relationships between plants and human life and the interactions people have with plants in gardens.
Poems published so far are by: Christine Griffin, Efi Kalorkoti , Elizabeth Woodgate, Iris Anne Lewis , Isobel Shirlaw, Jane Spray, Jacqueline Bartle, Jacqueline Schaalje, Jean Florence, Julian Bishop, Kate Copeland, Lana Silver, Leslie Tate, Marilyn Timms, Moira Garland, Robbie Martzen, Shani Cadwallender, Sharon Webster, Tricia Lloyd Waller, Vicky Hampton, Wendy Webb
Jacqueline has published short fiction and poetry, most recently in The Friday Poem, Free State Review, California Quarterly, and Six Sentences. She earned her MA in English from the University of Amsterdam.
Natural Household Decoration
Decorate my seat with great quaking grass
tickling like big glass, gauzy puff of panicum
bundled like a whip. Give us another thwack, make us burn
dry like a frozen fountain, prickly globe thistles.
There’s not so much as a dent in these round queen
double flower heads ideal for shoo-fly beds
gathered in wraps. They thrive in full sun but have
a small drought tolerance. Harvest this feast before the
blue tits twitter. Or try a softer call with Japanese
anemone drumsticks. I know, it’s a struggle with soft
on soft! Now we strive for part shade, part pierced
lattice to disengage our peeper neighbour. Wig-hat
for your fingers, why not aim for the smiling eyes
in the mother-of-pearl cantilevering disks?
Not schlepped by ants
Or rolled back and forth between bees’ paws
Not in people’s mouths
But in slack jelly of bitter taste
And in a carp pond
Not in a wool hat or a lily-patterned jumper
But in the fresh enticing smell of wedding bouquets
As stripped down as at a romantic dinner at the beachfront
Not in sonnets, not yet,
Nothing like a moon ray
But via a stingray
Floating past the garden buddha’s belly button
Staring at the wide plastic ocean
Between the tuberose divulging its perfume to the night sky
Feeding a calm pond
Dragging a collective eye
Necklace of gauzy pearls
Perhaps drifting through a ghost town, mausoleum of transformations,
Not in my own small idea of gorgeous
That awakes consciousness
And floats obedient to the world’s forces like tiny guardians
In camouflage shades, by day.
In giddy anticipation of picnics
they yawn from their green window,
crinkle a clumpy-mascara eye
and lie flat for the sun.
Other than bees, they need no buzz,
are passed over by high flyers.
If the sky claps black-and-white and clicks!,
their bright red stands rapt.
They don’t ask for anyone’s seed
to embark upon CO2 utilization.
Their rotulas crick and stretch
happily over a worn mat.
An occasional drip grounds them even more,
buoys them in a chill dew.
Their home resurrects them,
Wendy wrote her first poem, aged 11. A prolific poet, she’s learnt many rules of traditional forms, together with modern formats in free verse, acrostic, concrete, and other styles. She’s also devised her own forms, including the Davidian and Magi. Recently in: Littoral Magazine, Meek Colin, and Reach Poetry.
Counting Seasons, Botanically
When the neighbour’s leylandii hedge was dug up,
exposing three extraordinary gardens (the grass much greener),
he asked, ‘Got a body in there?’
Wooden fences returned privacy, deep-roots dug out
among builders’ rubble/bones of Fluffy or Rover/and barbed wire.
My simple wooden grave marker died down, as driftwood
on the tide of maternal grief. I planted narcissus, hellebores,
grape hyacinths, Galanthus; deciduous shrubs; evergreens;
ground cover. Ten years passed – like life (his) –
and I sat down, back to fence, admired my baby prunus
confetti-rich with blossom, its fall.
Syringa rage-rages soon, against the dying scent of life’s
rich loam. No bodies here; just memories.
Now there’s a grave marker for my white-bearded pater …
the stone memorial on the wings of tarmac (A47, A17, A52)
where he breathed his last, gently, in a care home.
Every season raises stars, in every stage of grief; and shade.
Botanically challenged by favourite colours, birthdays, blossoming;
and fall. This poem simply counts – by lines – my firstborn’s years (colour: green).
Christine enjoys all forms of writing, particularly poetry and short stories. She is widely published including in Acumen, Snakeskin, The Dawntreader, Graffiti Magazine, Poetry Super Highway and Writing Magazine. She has performed her work at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
He is planting daffodils on St Luke’s day,
an afternoon balmy with late-humming insects,
laughing children, the drone of a distant mower.
A hopeful robin chunters by his feet
as his fork gentles the earth,
crumbles clods, loosens clay.
Today is summer’s last fling.
Soon, birds will temper their song,
leaves will burn on November’s pyre,
winds will scour the land’s decay.
On this gilded afternoon
he stands reverently still,
cradling the last bulb
knowing he holds spring in his hands.
October 18, the feast of St Luke, is sometimes called St. Luke’s Little Summer when there is often a time of balmy dry weather.
Roses, sweet william, gardenia,
all will be dead in days
but who would know it here?
Flowers firecracker in rainbow buckets,
garlanded in star-sprinkled cellophane,
tempting the empty, urban heart.
Balloons bob, ribbons twirl in the scented air,
blooms transform into bridal bouquets,
congratulations, apologies, get-wells,
a single ‘I love you’,
A rainbow of radiant colour
tipped from a child’s paint box
illuminates pitted walkways,
glorifies brutalist blocks,
refreshes weary spirits
with stained-glass beauty.
Elizabeth is a poet and novelist, currently lecturing in poetry at the Arts University Bournemouth. Her work has appeared in Mslexia, Dorset Shorts, Grist and she won the 2020 NAWG open competition for her story ‘Devil’s Food’. U.A. Fanthorpe selected her sonnet, ‘Beginning’, to appear in the Housman anthology.
What do you do all day?
You flung it at me with a sneer,
an older sister’s incredulity
at the tedium of domestic life –
no payslip, a toddler to feed,
small shoes and a push chair strap
to buckle in an endless cycle.
Meaning for you was an
office, taking minutes, a name badge
(I could see the attraction – have grappled
with a name badge on and off.
A payslip too, the ghost of a pension).
In our strip of garden then
a crab apple had dropped its fruit
in a heap of yellow spheres:
you took a picture of me, smiling,
half proud – my sour harvest
clutched in a basket.
I set to work with bags of sugar
and a preserving pan: two and a half
jars of pink jelly my pitiful yield.
What do you do all day?
This time it’s my mother
wielding the baton, decades later,
as if she doesn’t know the lore
of home: the clink of wedding ring
against a sink, the glory of a washing line.
My husband makes the jelly now,
scanning the lanes for quince
and crabs. Marmalade is his annual ritual.
I harvest words all day –
those two and a half jars have turned into fire:
Oh Mummy, this is what I am doing.
Seeds in the packet
turn out to be little grey balls.
I push them into cardboard plugs
to go in the ground
when the shoots appear.
So proud, I take a picture.
The plugs like tall muffin cases
are lined up on a tea tray,
of colour and scent.
Excited, I put the tray
by the geranium that is
its terracotta pot. Green leaves
and pink flowers reach out
to tell me Yes, a cutting
will take and grow.
The image of abundance
on the South Parade balcony,
at the side of my mind,
for so long a remembered
blur, is now in focus,
Leslie is a non-binary UEA author whose three novels deal with love, generational conflict, the child within and climate change. Leslie MCs Extinction Rebellion stages, has been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes, and interviews creative/community-active people weekly on Radio Dacorum and online at https://leslietate.com/
First letter. Film stars like them.
Nicknames, flashbulbs, well-known stories.
Find them in the scriptures.
In wallspots, dug in. On windowsills.
Over branches. Outside fences.
Tongue-tip and ready, excited by the wind.
Dancing, old flame fashioned. All loved-up.
Rich pickings. Picture book coloured.
Backwall climbers, inlaid and starred.
Beads on patchwork. Bedspread and throw.
Underfoot watchers and survivors.
Cheekflesh, handprint, dark sly places.
You, where I touch you.
Poems in a drawer.
Theories of Life, Bodnant Gardens
Halfway around the terrace her voicemail tinkled Bach.
The lilies, it seemed, were scented notepads,
bees in the rose beds were clients bringing work.
Her voice tones danced like water over stone.
Only connect. Well-trained lime trees supported what she said.
Her long-haired husband wandered to a viewpoint
quoting Yeats. The skyline moving on,
the distance travelled, pressure points and flows,
centre and circumference, the build-up from the south.
Under-wired hedges lead them to a drop:
first and second circle, the valley closes down.
Here, on the inside, their voices audit life:
followers of Darwin, the great collectors, pickers and preservers,
tourists on the lookout, keen to father life.
Twists in the footpath circle to a pool where caterpillars fatten
and feather-veined ivies thicken over wood.
Snail tracks glitter. Evolution slows. The air develops teeth.
Discards and cut-offs figure in the blood.
Here is far south. Where the fish eye stares
and ego and origin thicken under stones.
Here they lose way; choose as thinkers
the shadow in the garden;
judgement, exile, a formula to work back.
Uphill between shrubs returns them to the house,
to weather lines on tables and a stone-carved gallery
with plant shapes, writers and angels in relief.
Theories of life.
Bird wings flash as their voices figure truth.
He reads them in the view.
Her call sign returns, the growth points show;
caught between patches, the insects do a dance.
Her climbing fingers beat out work.
To what new messages?
A Writing For Wellbeing facilitator, Vicky runs Poets In Progress (PIPs) in the Forest of Dean. Her poems are published in anthologies and magazines including Graffiti, Eyeflash, Sarasvati and Red Poets, and in ezines The Poetry Village and I’m Not A Silent Poet. She has performed at Cheltenham Poetry Festival.
The cat knows. She knew the moment
we set candles in the flower beds;
flickering points of a part pentagram
to light the leaves of opiates –
delphinium, lavender, lemon balm.
In a few minutes more the dark will settle
like sediment in the bottle, the night’s charm
separating us from the beyond.
Darkening now, all the garden’s greens
fuse under the influence.
Dew glistens on our glass’ stems.
We drain the neck
and watch the cat disappear
spectral on the edges of a vegetation’s dreams,
her black a momentary white
beside tips of golden light.
By the pond the ferns are turning pewter.
Soon the orange-eyed frogs strewn
across their lily pads will join the low gutturals
purring in our throats
while we watch the moon, petal-side-up
Lana is currently studying a literature degree alongside volunteering as a Telephone Befriender. A few of her poems have recently found homes, she is featured in Folklore Publishing’s Secret Chords Anthology, from the Folklore Poetry Prize 2020. And she was commended for New Voices First Pamphlet Awards 2021.
Dylan the collie is comfortable being himself
Dylan is a border collie
Always on his feet, lost for breath
Yet ready to bark at you
If you go to pick up your coffee mug.
His radio are the wild birds tweeting
And he knows the taste
Of each garden gnome’s pointy porcelain nose.
Licking the flowers until they smell like his smile
Running over each rose, playing in a sanctuary of scent
And his eyes are the Oxford dictionary definition of happiness.
Having gained a BSc and MSc in Economics, and after various roles in the field, Efi has returned back to her love for words and healing. Now a certified Reiki healer, she uses vulnerability to address deeper psychological matters through poetry.
The joy of a garden
just plant me in the ground
and I’ll bloom and bloom
again each spring
a marigold crown.
The blush and burgundies
the fuchsias the magentas
the colours of my love for you
the overflowing treasures.
The delicate foliage
the scented potted lilies
soft my touch is to your skin
and freeing are my pleasures.
Like water everchanging
shifting the sands of life
green sheets beneath our union
and sunshine on our thighs.
Julian Bishop is a former runner-up in the Ginkgo Prize for Eco Poetry and his first collection called We Saw It All Happen is out in early 2023 from Fly On The Wall Press. He’s also had poems recently in Magma’s Anthropocene issue, The Morning Star and XR’s Rebel Talk.
Bad man’s posy, devil’s clover,
you duck the hedgerow cutter to taunt me daily,
halfway between the exhausting highway and the waiting wood.
Bruised maroon in widower’s weeds
or incandescent archangel white, I know the touch
of your tongue too well. You thrive among the dumped and defunct,
rise from industrial plastic, discarded
mattresses, a crusted badger carcass. I watch worms
flail at your roots, watchful beetles hunger for your pallid nectar.
Stingless, I no longer dread you but once
you fastened your dead lips on mine, impeccable rows
of molars glistening underneath. Now the stubbly young stingers
outpace you as you cling on to scrubby soil,
drawing strength from rusted iron, lager cans littering
the roadside, where your sticky wicks flicker all winter long.
Imagine a plant structurally aligned to the Eiffel Tower
scaled down to the proportions of herbaceous border
thrusting its way heavenwards with unstoppable desire
in spring. Each whorl of leaves, arranged like a propellor
circling the hirsute stem, bristles with stubble-like fur
nettling the unguarded finger with stings. Afterwards
you spend hours extracting each one with tweezers.
The highest highlight of this monster Viper’s Bugloss:
its pinky-cum-blue funnelled blooms: catnip for bees
assuming its fleshy rosettes pull through a late frost.
In Cornwall and the Scillies they grow like chickweeds,
but rarer than hen’s teeth in Tenerife due to habitat loss.
Last year in London I grew a crop from some eBay seeds
and every garden visitor was convinced they were trees.
Robbie lives in Luxembourg. He has published a small number of poems and stories in anthologies and journals, mostly in his native country, and has been long- and shortlisted at various competitions. Some of his writing can be found at www.blackfountain.lu and www.cahiersluxembourgeois.lu.
Every time I proudly bring them in,
you gently chide me
like a mother to a child
in our season-bound game:
‘Those are not flowers,
I wince, fingers outstretched, covering
their petals so they won’t hear
before I offer them a temporary home
in our upcycled jam pots.
Tricia Lloyd Waller
Tricia has always loved story in all its forms. She volunteers at her local library with early years readers and has recently had work accepted by The World of Myth, Margate Bookie, The Poet and Little Lilac Press.
It all began in the rhubarb patch when he was just a toddler
in pale blue seersucker dungarees and his Grana and Gander
had presented him with a sky blue plastic spade and trowel.
He loved nothing better than playing in his own bit of earth.
He quickly progressed to the fragrant and succulent strawberry beds
followed by the vigorous peapod bushes and gangly runner beans.
As he grew taller fueled by the freshly picked fruit and vegetables
he began to harvest the crisp and juicy apples and plums from their tall trees.
He delighted in digging, planting, weeding and even mulch spreading almost as much
as the harvesting but his favourite place in the ancient garden was the antiquated
Edwardian greenhouse where the tomatoes and a few of the more feeble seedlings
were housed. He cherished the claustrophobic yet cosy confines of the rusting construction
and the aromatic heady aroma of the ripening tomatoes. He delighted in letting the soft,
fertile soil ripple through his fingers as he weeded and he revelled in the beauty and
perfection of each and every perfect shiny red and ripe tomato.
Time – as it does – passed far too quickly and one fine spring day at breakfast
his Mother handed him a brown envelope. She sat opposite hugging her freshly brewed
coffee in its pale spot china mug to her chest beaming and waiting for his handsome sun – kissed
face to break into a wide smile when he glimpsed the contents but to her utmost horror Ryan her
sixteen-year-old nearly six foot tall son took one look at the prospectus and screaming ‘NO!’ ran.
When she went to find him in the greenhouse and explain about the horticultural course she had
in mind she was not prepared for the total devastation that she found. The overpowering stench of
crushed tomatoes made her eyes smart. Tomato juice and pips like blood dripped down the
windows and seedlings ripped from their soft soil beds lay crushed and broken all over the floor
along with a carpet of tomato skins and flesh. Ryan curled up like a ball in the far corner
arms cradling his head was rocking backwards and forwards. The voices in his head liked
this garden a lot! When he was in the garden it was as if they were gossiping in the distance
but they adored the greenhouse and here it was just like they were happy honey bees
buzzing gently in the orchard. However, the voices joined together as one to respond in the
negative to the suggestion of beginning any sort of journey away from this garden albeit a horticultural college course.
Society likes to name any deviation from the norm and so they declared that Ryan
was suffering from schizophrenia and prescribed a lifetime of strong antipsychotic
medication paired with CBT and he began his one-way journey
into mental health care away from the garden and the voices –
well sometimes when he remembered to take the pills!
Jean has lived on an acre of land in the Forest of Dean for over 40 years and has been writing, mostly poetry, with occasional publication, for most of that time, when not gardening.
A strange plant has colonised my garden pond.
It’s taking over, challenging the rush
that up to now has been the boss.
An unremarkable plant with pointed leaves and
whorls of almost non- existent flowers.
No-one seems to know what it is. Even
Patrick who knows almost all there is to know
about flowering things has drawn a blank.
When I get time, I really need to pull it
out before it chokes the water lily.
This morning, over coffee, I got down my
copy of Fitter and Blamey, a lifelong friend,
and find Lycopus europaeus: gypsy wort
flowers: small, white, purple spotted
bell shaped. Common by fresh water, marshland.
How did it find its way to this particular
place? What journey has it made? I go
and pick a sprig to study it. Indeed
the tiny flowers are white, purple spotted
bell shaped as described. I had not noticed.
Curious how learning something’s name can change one’s
attitude. Like being properly introduced.
A channel of communication opens.
It has a home, a habitat and habits,
hidden beauty, individuality.
Jacqueline has recently escaped from office life and is beginning a second career as an artist and writer. She has had work published in 24 Unread Messages, Pure Slush, Vamp Cat Magazine, Analogies & Allegories Literary Magazine, and The World of Myth.
Hearts of Stone and Concrete
Cracking the solid soil at the roots of a garden tree,
I struck a small stone heart, sharp as a concrete chipping.
It could be a spell, token or charm, buried for luck when the tree was young.
Magic to be drunk like water from the forest,
until the other trees were gone,
and the well ran dry.
Perhaps the heart of the tree itself,
hardened by the heat of the city.
Do trees have hearts?
Our ancestors gave them spirits, building, brick by brick, an edifice of myths around them,
tales of growth, decay and resurrection.
Writers and poets made them half human.
And modern civilisation splintered them to matchwood,
For the sake of its concrete ideals.
Yet trees are still revered by many,
as givers of energy, shade, food and life itself.
And the future cannot be set in stone.
No living being should be heartless.
With respect, I reburied the heart and hoped for the best.
Sharon lives in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire where, in recent years, she has had the opportunity to indulge an early passion for writing creative fiction and poetry.
The baggage that outlines us
When she was little she lived in the city.
There were no meadows there,
no daisy chains.
But there were parks and
pockets of earth in
the corners of squares,
and garish pots on balconies.
And in the posh bits,
there were spaces,
gaps in gated railings,
glimpses of lawns with
formal flower beds
and ornamental trees,
It was not quite enough.
In the middle bit she lived
by the sea, the no-man’s land,
neither earth nor sand
too salty, too windy,
nothing ever grew.
Expansive, wild, spirited and free,
she knew, she knew
she would have to move one day,
but for a little while so was she.
In the twilight was a cottage,
a gravel path,
a tumbling randomness of colour
fragranced from the past.
The hedge though was cut in waves
and she drew illustrations on all her walls
that were quite bonkers,
quite rebellious, that’s how she’d
come to see it all.
And this was enough.
Gardener, artist, potter, founder member of Bluebell Poets, and a member of Poets in Progress in the Forest of Dean, Jane has had poems published online, in magazines e.g. Fourteen, Madrigal, and in anthologies- Unravelling (Alba Publishing, 2019), Dear Dylan (Indigo Dreams, 2021) and Walking with the Wye (2022).
Lady’s Smock, Cuckoo Flower, Milkmaids, Fairy Flower, May Flower…
Lady’s Smock floats over the grass its lilac gauze
held just above scatterings of pale-yellow Oxlips
with Primroses hugging the turf
giving the garden a lightness
giving my heart a lightness
and the visiting Orange-tip butterflies
a gracing lilt and lift
this shining-leafed Spring.
Iris Anne Lewis
Iris is published on-line and in print. As a competition winner, she has been invited on several occasions to read her work at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. In 2020 she was the Silver Branch featured poet on Black Bough Poetry https://www.blackboughpoetry.com/iris-anne-lewis
Little Sisters of the Snow
In barefoot penance,
she steps among them –
miniature postulants cowled in white,
heads bowed, waiting for confession.
She plucks them
from the frozen ground.
No warmth from winter sun,
weak and shawled in cloud.
The church is empty and unlit.
On stone-flagged floors
she pads towards the east,
spreads snowdrops on the altar –
a pool of gentle white.
Later, lit for Candlemas
with flame and petalled light,
fragrant with flowers and honeyed wax,
the church fills with women’s voices
raised in Virgin praise and grace.
Note: Little Sisters of the Snow is one of the names for snowdrops. Other names include Candlemas bells, Fair Maids of February and Mary’s tapers. Snowdrops were traditionally placed on altars at Candlemas, a feast day commemorating the purification of the Blessed Virgin.
The Garden and the Wilderness
i Herb Garden
She plants the herbs in rows,
labels each with their name.
Calendula for health, hyssop
for cleansing, sage
for wisdom, lovage for strength,
and rosemary to slip
in the pocket
of a straying lover.
ii Poison Garden
In this secluded corner
the bitter wormwood grows.
She lets the plants writhe
and twist in a tangle
of bryony and ivy,
and deadly nightshade to slip
in the drink
of a straying lover.
No flowers here.
Only thickets of thorn,
toadstools and endless
tracts of grey-barked birch.
Leaf mould obliterates the path.
She stumbles on tree roots,
and keens for the loss
of a faithless lover.
Writing Poetry in Richard Jefferies Garden
After Barbara Guest
Trees words blossom wander blossom on through or under trees nurture hidden pool birdsong bubble thatch with rain sun trees moss willow gently tree seed garden children words water here blossom arched trees from water sing grace orchard
Shani is a poet, teacher and PhD hopeful at Birkbeck UoL, working on a critical-creative project about trees and identity in C19th poetry. Her first chapbook, A Crow’s Diet, was published by Dreich press in 2020.
Not so sprightly, these:
But flowers, shrivelled scrotal,
And it’s only the flowers are dead.
The daffodils are biding
energy for next year’s bloom
Abiding by me, littering
the ground with treads,
Me, all unwilling, crushing pin-bright ants,
Deflowering daisy heads;
And if I had a heart
You wouldn’t dance with me any road,
Beside the lake,
Beside the trees,
No spot in the city bright enough
To turn to bliss
Moira Garland is a prize-winning poet and fiction writer. Publications include The North, and forthcoming in Stand, and Sarasvati. Her work appears in numerous anthologies, in print and online, including Consilience journal and Fragmented Voices.
In the tiny gingerbread cottage
Gerda sits eating her porridge for breakfast listening to the nuthatch call the knock-knocking of the woodpecker outside mist shelters the wood she knows the sun will burn it off later her newly washed laundry will fly like bunting from the rope stretched across the camomile lawn then she’ll dig out the deep-rooted dandelions admire the spreading saxifrage a cocoon of cuckoo-spit around an aphid drink a cup of peppermint for her elevenses nothing will intrude until the telephone rings with the news she’s been expecting the unicorn is ready for her to collect fully reconditioned.
Seek whatever grows
in mountains and valleys
folding them as you go.
Isobel won the Fresher Poetry Prize, 2019, was highly commended in the 2019 Poetry Space competition and has appeared in wildfire words. She has written for The i, TLS, Daily Telegraph and Bangladeshi broadsheets, New Age and Daily Star. She is currently writing her first poetry collection and novel.
We Planted A Garden To Keep Out The Wild
We planted a garden to keep out The Wild
and filled it with trees bearing apples and plums, a solitary fig.
We watered it religiously
until it behaved, in short,
just as we wanted.
We planted a garden to keep out The Wild,
dug patches for carrots in hooded defences,
tied up young runner beans climbing up fences,
watered them til they gasped for forgiveness
and behaved, in short,
just as we wanted.
But after a while came a knock at the gate,
I want to come in, said a voice, the voice of The Wild.
It pulled down the trees; kicked up the soil; spat on the decking and pissed in the bird bath –
behaved, in short,
just as it wanted.
(And it left the gate open).
Before long the dung beetle came, then the woodlouse and the worms.
They crept on the ground and pulled up the bulbs
and the roots of the trees tiptoed up to the door like thieves
to lasso the bricks of the house
while the ivy, the creeper, the knotweed and vine
made themselves cosy over a bottle of wine.
And the walls cracked.
The lights went out.
And we sheltered and huddled and peeped outside
but the garden was gone.
All that was left was the moon
lit up like phosphorescence
in a sea filled
with oil spilled –
the fading fingerprint of a ghost.
We drew the blinds.
But then, in the room came the sound of wings
and we closed our eyes
but they wouldn’t behave just as we wanted,
for there, looking back at us,
was the wild eye of an owl
and it screamed.
Kate’s love for words led her to teaching & translating; her love for art & water to poetry … with publications in Ekphrastic Review, First Lit.Review-East, Metaworker, New Feathers, Poetry Distillery. Kate was born in Rotterdam 52 ages ago & lives a housesitter’s life.
when i don’t know what to think
and my heavy heart carries
away on heavy legs; a winter of leaf-
less love, cold air and Christmas Stars –
when i do feel somewhat quicksandy
and my heavy eyes grow shadows
in the green-leaved ivy;
that’s when i dare my head back
and trust the crisp crippled sky
covered in clouds,
regaining strength for a new Summer
to come; i see a god painting pale
underneath the waves of white lavender –
and when you want to know what i feel:
i collect cornered vines, clipped grace
the precious days ahead.
i listen to soil singing
of horizons, i think of love in a life.
The purple stays a longing place
but i soon return, i know.
Through the kitchen window where the lake ends, there
the ferns touch its lustrous sides; rippleness in motion,
all reeds waving at those colours, at her
and the pines’ crowns simply add some powdery green
to where water-plants start and sky ends; blackblue dark
-ness leaving such velvety shine, unleaving her.
Upstate dares she dive in, the leaves, they rustle and turn
a light wind, the stroking of seasons still warm enough to
unripple this brightness and joy such ease
to simply be polishing circles, lost in dialogues of air and
shades. How many humming birds are there to believe?
Irises are laughing as bees hunt this happy
-ness, a satiness so unworldly, a gratefulness so unearthly,
that it is there, just Upstate, where she dares to dive in.
An army of finches turns, white fawn pales
against cotton candy clouds, shredding the
sun, heading for walls, water.
Glimmers of light on the dining table
set; she’s strong, tall, kind to him, moving
like a lily, using crystal glasses, fresh herbs –
not verily to impress him, it’s just her roots.
She still loves the irresponsible her
hitting pigeon’s eggs out of the bougainville,
pink green paper-leaves, hitting the bogey-
man from her childish dreams, his ginger
stalks. Rabbit routes turn dust, cruciferous
vegetables may never finish in her kitchen.
She told him: I like basil with my eggs,
no cinnamon in my coffee. I just want one real
kiss in the morning before wearing my nettle
So, remember you’ll always remember
her indoor jungle, her gracious bouquet, as
she will rest her eyes on the West, decisively
wrapping a shawl around the shoulders,
confidence a second sheet.
And tell me, with all these symbols of
food, life, air: what do you need to find in all
these seas and flowers, while you share a fire
sunset and a park with pine trees?
Confidence frays like ripped silk
insecurities pile like blown leaves
words hurt more than fists.
Like a tree in autumn, the girl shuts down.
Bruises no longer elicit tears.
He has bled her dry.
She stands at the bathroom window,
talks to trees, watches a persistent
grumble of wind touch, tug,
seduce the red-gold glory
of innocent leaves.
Blinded by a promise of flight,
they follow as she once followed –
a life-bright leaf untethered,
knowing a moment of exultation
before the realisation that she dances
to another’s choreography.
Freewill is an illusion; Love a chimera.
Winter crawls through darkness
into spring, shoulders clouds aside
in fractured brilliance. Ice thaws,
sap dares to rise. Bark swells, births buds,
explodes to leaves. The girl breathes,
unbolts the door; blossoms.
The Family Tree is like an English Yew;
familiar, evergreen, counting centuries,
toxic, concealing family skeletons
in shallow graves.
Take James, solid, dependable,
built like an oak.
Or Sophie: a silver birch, pale ghost in the night,
young enough to be his daughter.
Immortalized by photography,
Sophie tends a sepia cardboard garden,
five tiny children strung out in a line,
hoglets following a mother hedgehog.
Poor Sophie! Her spines are soft as shadows,
ill-equipped to counter fist or silence. Four
miscarriages in quick succession. Only the intervention
of World War One grants her womb relief.
Searching for submarines, James discovers himself,
faces up to a stranger; admits an inconvenient truth.
Men of oak bonding. Depth charges rumbling
Sonar echoes, a heart beating time with his own.
Peace. James returns home bearing spoils of war –.
Alexander, willowy, high cheekbones, hungry eyes;
terrified of the law. Prison cells are small and dark.
Love and trees need light and space to grow.
James, besotted, scythes away undergrowth,
consigns the children to boarding school, locks his wife
in a lunatic asylum. Sets Alexander in her place.
Uprooted, Sophy withers and dies.
A new generation of saplings, echoes of Sophy,
demand justice, awareness; a protector.
They ask How could it happen? The wind answers
Very easily. She was only a woman.