By Stephen Kingsnorth
How quickly turns that silken purse - as though sow’s ear is taking space, hears jealousy, lost in revenge - but dew has dried, curl edges bruised, and secateurs deadhead at speed, already eager for rebirth. From best of blooms that nodding spreads, as if in shame, taut stretch neck drapes, so dozing head flops, ruby weak, cut gemstone seen as paste instead. Last pheromones drain scent away, flight summer buzz ignores its red, as all that feasted, lustre days, desert the call of luscious bed. While petal flesh clings to old veins, before the drop that feeds ahead - that ground where dust to dust will bear creation’s cycle, nature’s bled, the sacrifice, bone fingers, nails, sharp thorn surround for bowing head - see crown of glory, powerless. But passing, hand on, rests awhile, caresses dreams, wealth known before, and all is well as love remains.
Rush salmon trek in weary climes, a homeland search to fry their eggs, sunny-side up, with rainbow trout, climbing the thunder falling waves, these fliers breaking subterrain, an overbearing siren call. Oilskins stripped claws and waiting jaws, distracted, others leap unpaused, the spawning, overwhelming cause, though death above alevin redds. Instinct impels, propels, this charge, high water kamikaze gods.
It is not barleycorn alone that grows a beard from wizened seed; the stardust lightly blown for years that builds the fragile stuff of life, the spiral dna, returns, galaxies, nebulae. Manure, well-rotted, compost tilth heaped, in season, suburban plots nurtures stellata, allium, starflower over Bethlehem, though more resemble picture book than optical illusion ball. If ragwort serves as children’s sun, reminder plot impressionist; we paint not what is there, but scene we’re taught or feel, perception known. That is as resurrection rise - less science as our soul decrees.
‘The thorn needs admiration too’
Is that where disadvantage lies? The rose, so much, scent, symbol bloom, essential being, triple named - if changing label, still as sweet. as scattered, English literature. Laid in bed, thought nation’s jewel species named - no mix of blood - pruned, manured, nurtured hard, stable yard and bucket, gloves, standard, tea then hybridised. But for that beauty, price is paid - by we who would steal buttonhole - the pricking thorn, on duty guard trained sympathetic to the stem; is that where reputation earned? As when we collect hedgerow fruits, but not to broadcast, as the flock, thus ending seed, continued line, it’s we scream bitter, bloodied hand, bee sting splinter, life given up. Thrust into an unchosen role, hard pushed onto unwilling flesh, forced home on crown above the stains, no pleasure plaited in its warp, soon known for every crown displayed. Like the donkey, so abused, who carried king unrecognised, sharp skelf needles, royal red, heels overhead in godly scalp, thorn bird stabbed as the pelican.
What riches lie beneath our feet, not undermined by industry? These carpet tiles, in annual lay, through work of auxin, sacrifice, a compote turning clay to tilth is seedbed, mycorrhiza spread. Then crosspiece, felled by winds of change, cambium rotten, host to stags, is slower compost, death delayed, a purgatory underway. Combined is mindful, of our health, communion with partner, earth, found sound as site for pupils trained, honework, shaping, moulding soul. This cycle path as seasoned would spin forever, spread spokeshave drift; rural rides by cobnut swathes, swag for spring in underlay, harvest raids, launched aerial dreys, bushy tales from forest glades. Well-healed, footwear turning leaves, re-treads for our pacing soles, golden ways to brittle days, gait through five-barred, country code; some may balter, slipware sway, prefer grey tarmac, neater stone, but is firm footing underground the route sustaining, future bound?
Crushed velvet, claret, bruised - say scarred - the black baccara in the bed, so harshly pruned, sharp secateurs, then fed, top-dressed with stable dung, now nurtured, tended, blooming best, new beauty rising from its thorns. But why that pain for buttonhole such treatment for a collar dove? The mown scent rising, that we love, is cut lawn crying out its pain; why is the harvest of the field constrained for benefit, our own? Land management thought served us well; selective, breed-please for the eyes? The greenman, sage, cork cambium, will no one hear, see what’s before? What riches lie beneath our feet, not undermined by industry? These carpet tiles, leaves’ annual lay, through work of auxin, sacrifice, a compote turning clay to tilth is seedbed, mycorrhiza spread. Subversive fibre networks tread, our pithy grounding, underworld, fresh saprophytic fungi flush that speaks with willing trees above. If petals rise up to the skies, forged secret lies, cast underground; the leading light, drawn leaden dark, as good known only from the base.
A costume worn, fashion design, attracting role to spread the genes, by stirring means to spread the seed. Skies sunrise dawn to dressing down, it’s stratospheric modelled best, a wonder, awe, spirit inspire. But birds play lyres and thrushes songs, guppies shimmer in their swims, all to display, superior, their pool, so virile in the stream, they are the petals of the deep, where horses anchor by their tails and salmon, eels drive breeding grounds. This is survival of the breed, as magpies, bowers gather gifts; some plants are marked a trompe l’oeil, a brand of dating agency. Mascara, highlights, rouge with scent, aired pheromones to berth the heirs, are lashes, dimples, lips the art, high zygomatic arch maybe, such fetching, mate material?
Winter’s Final Touch
It’s true that winter’s final touch was welcomed, dripping of the thaw, a welcome sign, rays warming sun, merged shadows sharper than before. But now the melt of floes is such, for glaciers, cream bears climb rocks, broke bergs add to equator flow, and breasted, swimming, arctic fox. Warmed swelling seas invade the plains, island atolls find breached at strand, as poles apart, with two extremes, our leaders’ platitudes stream bland Deciduous come evergreen, not knowing time to cast, undress, as auxin losing potency, leaves scent, floor carpet, long untressed. So why look forward to the spring unless a board to launch forward across the street, around the globe, in climate change, the word is heard.
In Venice, at the carnival, or classic clown in circus ring, a drama queen on nightclub stage, loose actress in the pantomime, folk character in floral dance, or catwalk snob in fashion shot, blue movie flit through shady grey - while grubs insects, as carnivore, where does this pert tit carry me? I’ve seen them peck at crocus show, stiletto stab at heart of blooms, to gash, gouge, pierce and skewer flower. We catch an old song in the buds, spring cleaning twigs of trojan bugs, turning over a new leaf, tweet, a twitter feed as morning hop, clear sweep swipe in the spirit of spring blossom giving way to fruit. But what a dress this cleaner wears, no bucket, mop, just featherlight. but dust-up, goldcrest passerine, or firecrest if it trespasses.
Why turning rust leaves on the trees paint wonder - but not metal form, the oxide scar, green metal bench? Both witness chemicals at work; the autumn auxin taking charge, so damp air driving season’s cost. A copper beech, the chestnut bract, fall flaking branch, strip modesty; yet next that picnic bench neglect, with viridescent bottle mold, its palette range a mirror work? Would pristine tree in summer dress, unchanging, satisfy our eye? Why should our plant, this country seat, not share the turning of the year?
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), born in London, but retired to Wales, UK, from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, most recently The Sweetycat Press, The Parliament Literary Magazine, Poetry Potion, Grand Little Things, The Poet Magazine, Stone Poetry Journal.