Walking through the dark trees,
My steps sending little puffs of dust
Over the small curling ferns crouching.
The faint shine of a white petal
Breaks through the intense darkness,
Until a sudden throw of moonlight
Brings the pale anemones,
The golden celandine,
Into perfect life on the woodland floor.
I hear the soft shuffling of birds in their nests,
Heads tucked under their wings,
Then the tiny bubbling of water running
Down the little, half-hidden stream,
Throwing the odd diamond drop
Onto the yellow primrose.
Here, small brown creatures
Slip in and out of the freezing water,
Icy, from the still snow laden hills so faraway
This wood never thinks of them.
Nor do we, until, we, too, are frozen.
Out of the trees, onto the edge of the fields
That stretch into the darkness,
The small growings rustling an excited invitation
To walk the night
Over ploughed earth and stony frost sparkling
To the far wood, which magic is held to own.
But I turn back, not ready to meet a veiled magician
Of spite, dead things and stagnant water.
And the trees swallow me
As a shadow is swallowed by darkness.
Now the wood shakes itself,
The trees whispering of this returned presence
Walking their quiet and mossy paths.
And I turn for home,
To the lovely fragrance of wild roses
In the hedgerows.
© Gwen Grant
Yesterday, 11th November, was Armistice Day in this country and I put up a poem for that day. The flower in this poem I saw en route to Scotland on a day thick with frost and the first flakes of snow falling. As we waited at the side of the road to move on, I saw it, deep in a patch of woodland where every flower and leaf was fighting to survive.
ON THE EDGE OF WINTER
On the edge of winter
Where the pale-lit leaves
All frail and flimsy
Lift the trees above the sullen darkness,
Leaving bare their winter branches,
There, where burdock and spiteful bramble,
No longer green but cold and seamed
With bitter leaves
Warm their feet in the dark earth,
In the roots that wind and curl into the darkness
Hard by the yellow matted grasses,
The bleached and bone-white tussocks
Dying, dying, all sad and weary.
There, on the edge of winter,
Lying in the frosty sparkle,
I saw the bold, bright petal of a winter flower
Defeat the darkness
With life and hope and love and passion.
Every year on the 11th day of November, at the eleventh hour, we remember all those who have died or been physically or mentally injured in war. We remember, too, all those who have been caught up in violence, who have trembled with pain, wept with sorrow and grieved for the pain and loss of those they love. The poppy is the symbol of remembrance.
Lately, poppies are in the fields,
Beaming amongst the yellow corn,
Smiling in the tall tangle
Of wayward grasses and nubs of moody ragwort
In the hedgerows.
Careless, it seems, of the close threat
Of the dark, the bitter nettle,
Crowding their calm loveliness.
When rain comes, the nettle rejoices
As those lovely heads are beaten into the dust.
For a while, all seems lost,
Until they rise again.
Their scarlet pennants trembling
In the powerful forces ranged against them.
Trembling, yet standing firm.
Frail and beautiful, their petals
A flick of red on the painted air.
Beautiful and frail, as are all who stand guard
Against the nettled strength waiting its chance
To crush that which is fragile.
Yet the nettle has always misjudged the poppy,
Seeing only its frailty,
Blind to its endurance.
And this world is full of poppies
Shining their bright and lovely defiance
Into every place where darkness seeks dominion,
Their crimson glory forever seeding the earth with hope.
© Gwen Grant
When I was 12 years old, I decided I would walk to the end of a rainbow, find the gold and we could all live happily ever after. Several hours later, too tired to take another step, the rainbow as far away as ever and fading fast, I headed back home. I found something on that expedition, though, as I’ve never forgotten it.
All life exists
At the end of a rainbow.
Witches on broomsticks,
A Knight in shining armour.
I don’t really think so.
The last time I looked,
There was only a crumble of dirt,
A grain of corn,
A rain beetle struggling through the leaf mould.
Still, we build
What we can
With what’s to hand.
© Gwen Grant