Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Foremost: A Poet

April, so nearly gone, was National Poetry Month in the USA, and to celebrate, an American poet, Jeremy, and I set about on a collaboration to exchange three poems each, on the topic, 'Growing Season', they may or may not end up published ... See what you think ... !

Jeremy to Mary on April 1, 2014
This Would Be a Kentucky Poem, but We’ve Come South to Spend
a Week with My Parents in Louisiana Because the Winter’s Been Cold
Spring comes early to north Louisiana,
the redbuds and dogwoods are green by April.
Hummingbirds are already on the move north.
The carpenter bees that nest in the eaves
are out and mating. We’ve come south for this warmth.
The kids, giddy with sun and light and barefoot 
play and the turtle in the pool’s green water, 
turn weeds into scepters and knight the carcasses
of the two that did not survive according
to the order of Those Who Have Gone On Ahead.
They chide the rabbits for gnawing the cabbage
in grandpa’s garden. When the cat leaves a headless
bunny at the door, they peer into the cavity,
at the heart and lungs, then sing a scolding song.
The camellia outside my parent’s bedroom
shed its petals when February’s freezing rains
came through. Mom said, it had been a year for blooms,
said she hadn’t seen the girl that pink and gaudy
since before mother passed, pity the kids
missed the party. Rather than mourn the loss,
they trade spent fuchsia petals like coin.

Mary to Jeremy on April 2, 2014
Pre-Conceived Ideas
Like ballast from a blimp
He fell at my feet
Before I did... .
"Sorry I'm late."
Summersaulting across my garden
Shaking pollen from the lazy hazel
Pulling back the privet
"Excuse me...!"
(Finding myself)
"You're not exactly ... "
"'Sephany sends her apologies ..."
Whipping back his white leather coat
In neon green capitals
Six inches high
On a BLACK Tee
" ... It's the vernal equinox you know.
Plays hell with her hay fever!
She's on vacation."
And he's off!
Sticking a soil thermometer
In the strawberry bed
Blowing a kiss at the cowslips
(That, I swear, blushed,)
And then, for some inexplicable reason,
Measuring the diameter of all the water lilies
And recording them
In millimetres
Faint, I slumped into the Victorian
Basket Chair.
"Tea?" I whispered.
Spring grinned.
"Why not?
After all, it's four o clock
And this is ENGLAND!"

Jeremy to Mary on April 14, 2014
May This Mr. Spring Fellow
may this Mr. Spring fellow / who has come
dressed in white leathers / neon green letters
emblazoned on his black t-shirt / some young
George crooning / he’ll wake you up / he promises
before  he goes & he won’t go until
summer grasses are tall / heavy with seed-heads
/ who you / swooning have invited to tea
in your garden / in full view of the priest
& the gossips / may this Mr. Spring fellow
not be a Mr. Willoughby / or Wickham /
may he come & stay / grow the plump belly
of a happy man / well-fed & lazy /
not so lazy that he forget to wake
the bees each morning / coax asparagus /
peonies up through last year’s dark / wet / leaves /
give him lemon curd from January’s batch /
rowan berry wine from September’s harvest /
let him know the sweet & bitter tastes of fall
/ winter / you have worried down his absence
into something rich / complex / let him know
/ come or go / you’re fine / you have chosen life

 Dear Poetry and/or Blog Social Media Editor

Please accept the next three, and final, poems from Mary and me. Again, I think I speak for the both of us, it has been a lovely way to spend the month.


Mary and Jeremy

Poem from Mary on April 21

Spring Bank Holiday Thunder Storm


Today I speak of Spring.

Not the quiet girlie Spring 
That arrives in a hush with
Sweet notes and gentle greens.


Today, Spring lets loose thunder claps
And rain that hits my window
Like nails. 

The song thrush, that lusty warbler
Sang forth the lightning:
Shouting down the drum rolls of
The clashing clouds.


Today's Spring, noisy, exuberant,
Chases me into the parlour and 
Keeps me at bay. 

I wait.

Sometime, before the sulking sun
Slips below the silver-grey -
So do  I, and 


The tree peony has burst white - 
A single blowsey bloom,
And the lilac -
Finally! breaks into purple. 
Bright enough  to make you look up and 



Poem from Jeremy on April 23

This Too Is Spring

Yesterday I dug up the nandina 
planted to hide the utility box. 

The cold this year was too severe
and the plant died back to the root.

Plus, we've never liked its toxic 
berries, spindly stems. Our neighbor's

ivy that grows over the fence 
and holds up the rickety wood 

died back as well and now I must 
replace the rotted slats to keep

our dogs from fighting. I grew up
on an island in the tropics.

And though I don't mind winter's cold, 
this year was harsh. The almanac 

says we're in for a hot summer. 
Yet only now have we come out

of drought, and surplus rains don’t work
that way. Lakes might fill, but a dry

June and July still bakes the ground,
still stresses the trees. There’s a shock 

that comes when the root of a plant 
you thought had been killed is severed 

and bright yellow sapwood shines through 
the dark dirt. It’s like when a spade 

slices a worm, the two red halves 
writhing. The hope these bits will grow 

new heads or tails does not soften
the shock of hacking a body

open. And not every cut ends
in regeneration. The roots

of the nandina are rhizomes,
that spread and crowd out native plants.

This propagation without sex
is like the regeneration 

of worms, and like worms not all roots
thrive, grab hold of the earth, and make

a new home, some cannot survive
long journeys and new latitudes.

Is nandina’s yes to life wrong?
I am trying to understand 

how to care for this plot of land
we have bought, what it means to be

from a place, from a place you are
not from. The nandina never

asked to be taken from the hills
of Asia, but it’s found a way 

to live through cold and drought, removed
from its ancient soil. I come from

a long line of travelers, we,
back and back and back, cast aside 

commitment to place. Can you, once
severing is your history, 

ever settle? I ask because 
this winter tempted me with dreams 

of the Caribbean, though I’m 
only almost from there. I ask 

because this summer’s heat will break 
records, the consuming fires 

that move us from place to place fuel 
storms, drought, and cold. I tell myself 

uprooting nandina to plant 
native species is a violence 

that will help heal the earth, but then
this language scares me. Forgive me, 

you sent a peony poem
with purple lilacs and laughter,

that plays with Chaucer and Hopkins, 
that joys in the rains of April

and how the timber of a thrush
song rinses and wrings the ear, words 

well-grounded in England’s soil,
while I, I have sent you doubts and fears,

a poem full of severings,
of misplaced plants and a scarred earth.

But this too is spring, this walking 
the fence to change out rotted wood, 

this digging in the earth and self, 
and also the dream of travel, 

ask Chaucer’s pilgrims, and yes,
even this, the recognition

that the world, like one’s self, is old
and pockmarked, but that the world, life, 

hedges bets, finds a way to spread 
through seed and rhizome, to turn

severing into a small grace. 

Poem from Mary on April 24

A Road Well Travelled

Enough of static gardens and
Ecstatic birds! This evening we'll
Take to the car - rejoicing that
After TWO WEEKS my keys turned
Up in the mop bucket. One excuses
Abigail, she's two, too, and at two
It's what you do.
I don't drive well, but, what the hell! It's Spring and
The B 4125 Ross Road is
At it's green and gorgeous


High Street. Look left to the Market House
Cattle were sold here once, prodded
Along the drovers road to Gloucester
Which is where, for the record,
We're headed. Ahead,
High Street, Church Street, Broad St..
One suspects one's ancestors
Lacked imagination, and were busy.
Their names get us there, wherever
By the quickest route.

Joe Meek Road. Poor Joe,
Wrote Telstar, and died an addict
Newent's most famous recalcitrant.

Turn left - No, right-
Past The Traveller's Rest
Hedge-lined, tree shaded
Eccentric, this, 'Rolling English Road'
To quote from a very good poem for
Your  pocket... 'Rambling RoundThe Shire'
(Couldn't put it better myself)
You are fortunate, having no
Saxon field boundaries to hold you back.
Meandering, of course, is the point,
But so is Spring, and growing
Things, so ...

 Highleadon! The blackthorn
Blooms have turned brown before the
Leaf buds, yet to burst. The
Chestnuts are putting out though,
The scoundrels. Candles, I've heard
Them called, those tall pale wicks.

Malswick ... Here's a name to
Conjure with. Say it
slowly, make it roll around your tongue

M A L S W I C K.

A mere hamlet, we're through it already
And pondering on at 30 mph. Stuck
Behind a tractor with a burden of very
Heavy logs. Turns off down Whitehall
Lane (Thank God! We're late.)

Rudford. We'll linger a while through
An acre  of remnant wood.
Lady's smock- mauve and past their best,
Bluebells a cyan mist on a
Mossy floor. Beech, luminous,
Sycamore, new out, and
Pinky green. In a minute
We're peering over hedges
Queen Anne's Lace, Cuckoo Pint
Cherry, just going over
And a magnificent Magnolia
Pugin's stately church appears on the
(Checking) right,  which
Means we are in

 Highnam, with
Just ten minutes before Jen's
Train arrives.. We'll make it.
Traffic lights. Red, as ever
When we're in a hurry. The A40 which
Would, if we let it, take us to St David's.
No. Left into town.
Just look! 

The Severn keeps
Us with our bricks at bay:
The view across the river
Is medieval ... The Cathedral!
Streaking past St Oswald's Priory
Endowed by  a  long-dead queen
And ruined now. Anyhow, two minutes
More and we've  arrived with the
London train. Here's my daughter
Smiling, we're all smiling:

"Jen, meet Jeremy. He's a Poet.
We're doing Spring."


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