Poem: Beans coiling uncoiling – Lockdown 33

Welcome to another small moment of noticing – this time we’re back to the veggies. These lockdown poems are often a celebration of paying attention, noticing the small wonders that are before us every day. Since we’ve had some rain, the beans have been racing ahead.  I seem to have managed to keep the pigeons off them for now, but, with all the little seedlings, they are strutting around looking interested.

I am intrigued by the way the stems search out their supports, and coil around them.  It’s beatiful to come back day by day and see what progress they are making.  All from a small bean, and the earth, and the rain, and the sun.  No wonder they inspired fairy tales.

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Beans coiling uncoiling – Lockdown 33

How does the bean know
to twist itself so perfectly
around these tall sticks?

How does the stem grow
close on one side, where
it touches, stretched
out on the other,
open to the air
and the sun?

I uncoil it tenderly
from where it has
strayed.
How long until it
cleaves to its
new home?
How long until
it feels safe,
and thrives?

Poem: Longing for Rain – Lockdown 32

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We had an intensely hot, dry stretch of weather, in May, which was a time when the few miles to the sea was an impossible journey.  Even as the lockdown eased, and journeys became more possible, we’ve been tentative in our outings, and sought out remote and deserted stretches of coast.  I have been recalling the longing for rain, and the longing for the sea, even as the garden revives, and we’ve heard and smelled the sea.  I’ve been turning those two things over in my mind.

This poem expresses some of the longings of lockdown, and is part of the series of poems that are emerging at this time.  I feel we may be getting closer to the end of that series, and then, it may be time for something new to emerge.

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Longing for Rain  Lockdown 32

The sea has felt so far away,
here, in this sheltered space.
The sound of water lapping,
lapping, seems miles of
dry ground from here,
while the little strawberries
are hard and intense,
like jelly sweets,
and the grass begins to yellow,
and leaves curl,
under a white sky

There is a symmetry
to this longing.
The journey I long to make –
to the sea, to the
spume and the sea mist,
the grey stones and the brown waters,
and the journey I long for
those waters to make –
to visit us here
on this drying land,
blown by the wind
on rivers of cloud,
then falling softly –
hissing, hot-earth-smelling
rain.

May our paths cross,
our journeys
be completed,
may the life-giving waters
soak and soothe us.
May it be so.

Poem: Beetle – Lockdown 30

Like yesterday’s poem, this next is an observation of an insect.  There are so many insects in the garden.  Most days, I see one I don’t recognise, and this beetle is one of those.  I did not have my camera to hand to take a photo, but I hope you can imagine it.

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I really value the way writing these snatches of life in the garden has encouraged me to be on the look out for all the huge diversity of plants and creatures that I share my home with.
The frame through which we see anything is shaped and coloured by the thoughts we bring with us, of course. And this poem, like many of the others, carries something of that knowledge of the loss and sadness of our communities around its edges, and in its ending.

Perhaps these snatches of writing are an encouragement to acknowledge those feelings, gently and compassionately, accepting them as we are able, at that moment.

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This pencil case was made an appearance in an earlier poem.

 

Beetle  Lockdown 30

Here, a long black beetle
rearranges its wings,

Black as funeral veils
that cannot be worn,
opening
and closing its
hard shell.

So fragile, the wings –
impossibly so,
folded precisely
as it moves along the
edge of my blanket,
then, with the breeze,
it flies, is gone,
lost to the shadows.
Out of sight, not out of mind.

Poem: The consolation of watching a spider – Lockdown 29

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This next Lockdown Poem is a return to recording the moment, and the deepening sense of connection, and of something like mutual care, I am feeling with my place.  This growing sense of awe, and respect, and interdependence, is one of the things I hope to take forward from this time.  It’s one of the themes that is emerging from the Lockdown Poems.

Being in this strange space – a mixture of inaction and anxiety, peace and distress – may in time lead to a surer sense of purpose, and direction.  Not yet, though.  For now, we are in this threshold space, living with the pain of so much upended, so much loss, so many of our culture’s injustices and troubles revealed. It is challenging work, this learning how to“dwell in possibility” as Emily Dickinson says.  What might be possible if we increasingly experienced a deeper connection to the places where we live, and the communities of people and others we share them with? Can we be humble enough to recognise how dependent we all are on each other?

 

The pictures show some of the parts of our lawn we have left grow, down amongst the stems.  While not doing the full “no mow May” we have, as we did last year, noticed where the wild flowers are coming through, and left patches.  These patches are full of life.  I wasn’t able to catch a photo of the tiny spider, but you can at least see a little of a small creature’s perspective from down here!

 

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The consolation of watching a spider  Lockdown 29

Morning.  Some sun,
and white clouds
like eiderdowns
stitched with blue.
I move on my mat
under the tree,
my movement patterned,
sequenced, releasing.

For a while,
I let the sadness
seep into the ground,
my face close to the earth,
let it seep into the earth
which then upholds me,
supports me.

I feel the gentle patter of
sycamore flowers falling
on my back,
shaken by the breeze.
I breathe where I am,
smell earth, and grass,

I look, and there
before my eyes is a
tiny spider, yellow,
with a black point
curving the end
of its abdomen,
spinning a web
between these
blades of grass,
back and forth,
back and forth,

Complex,
many limbed,
weaving and weaving
like Persephone,
light and dark,
yet tiny next to the ant
and the aphids.

And I think, there
will be smaller things,
too, smaller than I can
see, worlds of strangeness
and complexity in this soil.
All this life,
I rest on all this life,
here, with me.

 

I have written about spiders, and weaving, before.  You can read those poems by following the links below.

Poem- Spider

Poem: Weaving – Unweaving

Spiders

Silk

Poem: Yellow Roses – Lockdown 28

 

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This next in the Lockdown Poems series came a few days ago, when it was warmer than it is today.  It, like Change, touches on the mixed feelings, the unease, as the lockdown begins to unlock – in what feels at the moment like an angry and haphazard way.

Many of us are hoping that lockdown, this painful and difficult pause, will prove to be a strange form of Sabbath: a holy pause where things can be reset, where values can be reclaimed after the dissipating busyness of business as usual. Perhaps we can reclaim a better understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. I still hope for that, but see that business as usual is as powerful a force as ever.

I hope that we can find a way of making our money and political systems work in the service of all life, and human flourishing, for justice and mercy.  Otherwise, they seem to me to be idols to which life is sacrificed.  At the moment, much is being revealed of the injustice and cruelty of our current systems, whether that be racial and economic injustice, or the wider destruction of life on this Earth. While this is a difficult experience, it is necessary.  It’s hard to do better when you can’t see what’s wrong. It is a long haul, this, seeking a better way forward.

I hope we can retain some of the slowness, connectedness, the care that is being demonstrated in our communities, the richness of our appreciation of the natural world, and of the preciousness of human relationships, as we emerge.  I hope we have and take this opportunity to make something new, and more beautiful, for us all.

What might you hope for?

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Yellow Roses   Lockdown 28

It is getting warm,
and the yellow roses
are out – bright,
sweet,
and there is the cuckoo.

The birds are quieter midday now,
and the cars grow louder.
It unsettles me,
breaks into my green
sheltered glade
with hurry,
and that old linear
way of being I
have set aside.

Can I stay here,
watching the bee
visit the rose?
Watching the columbines
sway, gentle as doves,
and feel the breeze
delight my skin?

What is unlocked,
within me,
as the lockdown
rolls on?
What do I lose,
as this time loosens,
and what remains?

Poem: Gladioli – Lockdown 27

It’s raining today, and the gladioli and the rest of the garden are greening up, the flowers and the strawberries look plumper already.  It’s good to see.

Here is another Lockdown Poem, which is reminding me to go outside again later, rain or no rain, and breathe the damp earth smell, and take time to notice how the garden is responding.

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Gladioli  Lockdown 27

This green flock
with long necks
and sharp beaks
turn, as one,
towards the sun,
alert for its return.

Sharp leaves
bristling
like flight feathers
about to take off,
although they
will not fly.

Just wait, thought,
a few more days,
and those beaks
will open such a
loud cry of cerise,
extravagant
as any feather,
as any song,

Lifting the
deepening greens,
rejoicing in
the company
of bees.

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Poem: Change – Lockdown Poems 26

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This next in the series of Lockdown Poems is another snatched moment in the garden, and reflects something of the uneasiness many of us are feeling as we begin to emerge in stages from our homes.  Those feelings of unease come from a variety of sources – and I am trying to come to terms with my disquiet at doing a little more, even when that little more is what I want to do.

I hope the discipline of noticing, of grounding, will continue to help, as we take a moment to be still, and look, and listen.

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Change – Lockdown 26

Just quietness today.
Quarrelling crows,
I think more traffic.
A siren.
An uneasy wind.

Red admiral butterfly,
a flash of scarlet and black,
then quiet again,
as the trees hiss and
clouds come grey
from the north.
I am uneasy with
this change.

And yet, the buttercups
are opening,
and the apple tree,
against expectation,
is covered in late
white blossom.

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This image was taken a few years ago, and first appeared on this blog with the poem Consider.

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Poem: Leaves – Lockdown 25

The next two Lockdown Poems are short, and, like so many of the others, immediate.

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So, however things are going for you today, I hope you can take a brief moment among the leaves.

Leaves   Lockdown 25

After yesterday’s wind,
the ground is
littered with soft new leaves,
curling in the bright sun,
their pale undersides
arching away from the grass.

I’ll gather them from
the lawn, place
them on the earth
under the tree.
Too soon
a homecoming.

Poem: Dark Iris – Lockdown 24

The next of these Lockdown Poems also contains an excursion, like the last.

This excursion is different, though, as it is one of memory.  Looking at the irises stirred up three memories.  Although one of the things I am seeking to do with these writings is to stay in the moment, to stay connected to what is before me, other thoughts will come, and this time I welcomed them.  Memory can prove rich when our daily experience is curtailed, and days can seem alike.

The third of these memories is of the beautiful Alde Valley Festival we went to last year, and in particular the huge iris paintings by Jelly Green, which I loved.

Memory can help, and can enrich our presence in the moment.  I am still exploring what those dark tongues of the iris may be saying to me.

 

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Dark Iris  lockdown 24

I am looking out at the
dark irises,
newly unfolding,
stem swinging like
an inverted pendulum
above the singing yellow
of the euphorbia,
looking at their tongues
of darkness,
their deep hearts,
rimmed with purple.

I remember three things –
my last art project at school:
the careful, layered painting
of purple, the sadness
at laying my brush down….

The iris bed at college:
white hard ground,
clear hot sky,
the background
anxiety of summer,
looking into their secret hearts…

Last year, Alde Valley Festival:
when festivals could happen –
those huge canvasses,
the exuberant life of the paint,
the depth of purple,
shading to night at
their very centres.

I am drawn into these
dark hearts,
to listen to the whispering
of those tongues,
to see, from within,
what they are –
and they are
illuminated,
purple and dazzling,
shining
in the high bright sun.

 

Poem: Night Music – Lockdown 22

Thank you to those who have recently joined in following this journey of the imagination, and attention, through the experience of lockdown.  We still face pandemic, and uncertainty, as we begin to think about how to emerge.  It’s good to have your company here in these difficult times.  I hope the lockdown poems, fragments, give you moments of tranquility.

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This one isn’t quite like most of the others, and I wondered about including it.  It’s more a clearing of the mind and spirit in the morning after a troubled night.  But we all have troubled nights, perhaps more especially now, so I hope this small poem helps.  I wondered also about changing the line where I talk of consent, consent to the work of the nightshadows in disturbing the day…. I am well aware that many times the shadows do their work without our co-operation, but I kept it, as it recorded how I felt in that moment.  Having noticed, I could, at that moment, chose to decline.  Many times I have not felt that choice.

It helped me sit, in the early morning, and set my intention to sing the song I had found in the night.

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Night Music  Lockdown 22

The night has been casting shadows
again, long fingers of darkness
seeking to pluck at my mindstrings,
heartstrings,
but I know today
they only draw
their discordant melody
from me if I consent.

So I watch their fretful
silent movements,
acknowledge them,
bless them even,
and turn away
to the starfilled skies,
to the nightingale,
to the birds that begin
so early, so early now
to sing.

I choose their song.
I choose too,
to be a small
singing creature
in that great dawn chorus,
while the darkness
does what work it must.