WALLFLOWERS IN NOVEMBER

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We bought two bunches of wallflower plants from the market, not expecting to see any flowers until next Spring.  But they’re all blooming.  My Dad was a keen gardener and a good one and he would have been totally amazed by this.  But I remember the winters when I was a girl were bitterly cold and snowy so no flowers at all then.  Only ice flowers on the water in the old quarry.

     WALLFLOWERS IN NOVEMBER 

The old gardeners would never have
  believed it.
Not wallflowers in November.
Why, that would have been against all the
  laws of nature,
Unheard of.
Yet, here they are,
S
miling into the crisp November morning.
Their velvet yellow petals
Reminding the cold air of Spring,
Their dark reds almost bringing alive
The sultry sweetness of summer. 

One glance is enough to reveal
The energy of those glorious flowers,
Enough to set the world on fire,
More than enough to put bitter frost in
  its bitter place,
No killing will ever happen here. 

Wallflowers in November can do that.
Their petals scent the days
Even when the trees are dying,
Giving lie to all those stories
Of life and death endings.
Laying claim, once for all, to no endings here. 

Just wallflowers in November. 

                                   ©2019 Gwen Grant

POPPIES

poppies (2)

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.

                                                      POPPIES

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.

                                                               © 2018 Gwen Grant

POACHER’S MOON

poachers moon

One of my favourite things is walking.  I used to walk a lot at night, loving the darkness  and the way the world changed in the fields and hedgrows.  This was an encounter with a poacher.  They were such silent and still men when they heard anyone coming, so they could frighten the wits out of you when you spotted them.

      POACHER’S MOON

 That night, when I was out,
Walking the frozen fields,
He was the only stranger,
The Poacher,
Standing still as a death stone
Under the oak tree,
Switching on his head lamp
Only when I was past.
Blinding me and the rabbit,
Blinding me and the hare.
And I wondered if this was the time
Me and the pheasant,
The deer and the rabbit,
The cunning old fox and the hare
Would all lie down together
In the white and frosted furrows,
To lie there for ever.
For I had seen the Poacher,
By dint of old and wicked country magic
Of Deadly Nightshade and of Henbane,
Leap into the sky above us.
His head lamp shining away
Every shadow that would save us.
Until I looked again and saw
The Poacher’s moon. 

                                         ©2019 Gwen Grant

A DERBYSHIRE WINTER

derbyshire winter

After a journey over the Derbyshire hills when Winter itself seemed to take shape and form, this was how I remembered it. A place of utter beauty and totally unforgiving.  It was so enchanting, even though we had to drive really slowly to avoid skidding, I couldn’t take my eyes off the world around me.

                  A DERBYSHIRE WINTER

 Yesterday, we met that great icicled old man, Winter,
Striding across the tops of the Derbyshire peaks,
Flinging furious fists of snow on to the roads,
Stones, dips, hollows and hedgerows.

The hills and fields were bone white,
And white to the bone where he had passed.
Even the bleak and edgy rocks had given in,
Hiding their lovely blackness
Out of sight of the old man’s fury.
For who knew what he would do next? 

Too late!  He’s done it.
That tree standing alone in the emptiness
Should have shown a bit more respect.
Bowed its aching head
Under the snowy crown he had given it,
But somehow it shook the snow off instead.
And that great icicled old man spat spiteful
Gobbets of icy breath across it
Until, for one brief and beautiful moment,
The tree shone and dazzled in the thin sun,
Then broke under the old terror’s icy gift and was gone.  

Oh, winter, you could have pity on us.
You could pity the owl and the crow,
The mouse, the fox, the shrew and the stoat.
You could pity the glancing beauty of the dying fish
Striking up through the frozen water.
But you won’t, will you?
Even though you could afford to.
For such splendour and icy glory,
So enchanting it catches the breath
And causes the heart to fall back,
Will never willingly leave these peaks
To the wind and rumpled grass.
                                            © 2018 Gwen Grant

WINTER IS COMING

I heard of a friend dying and I thought of the person left behind, in winter, when there seems to be no consolation anywhere, so I hoped that maybe sitting outside on a wooden bench, feeling the strength of the wood, might help.  And there’s such a lot to cherish on winter nights.  I hoped the beauty and bitter cold would make themselves felt as friends at a time when a silent friend was needed.

               WINTER IS COMING 

Winter is coming, circling around the house and garden
The grass already white over,
The last of the dahlias bending their heads to the cold.
Over the hedge, a fierce, clear brilliance sets everything sparkling.
Even the big tree, all leaves lost, stands white and starry.
Somewhere, over the fields, a fox barks,
Sending the plump little pheasants huddling deeper into cover. 

Darkness down the quiet street,
Split now by a square of yellow light flaring in an anxious window.
Not long after, the long car of a night Doctor pulls up silently.
A brisk tap tap of sharp heels urgent to the waiting door wide open,
Makes the sleeping houses quiver.
All those still awake, sinking deeper into their restless pillows,
Pulling the covers over their heads. 

Slowly, the moonlight drifts across the garden,
Lovely shards of icy silver picking out the stray black cat,
Courageous as any Roman conqueror,
Shadowing the grass with his magnificent presence. 

Then the creak of an old bench, as someone, out there in the darkness,
Newly bereft and soundlessly weeping clutches at the solid wood.
Praying its solidity will lend itself to their splintered grief
In this new world they are suddenly lost in.
This is the way it is, when winter is circling around the house and garden,
And people are lying in their beds, thinking. 

                                                                                              © 2018 Gwen Grant

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

heather

I just got so exasperated with this poem.  I could see it in my mind’s eye. I could even hear it but I just couldn’t write it.   We were planning a trip to Scotland at the time and I thought maybe that was where my poem had gone, in the train before ours.  So this was the poem that got away.  The one that was perfect, of course, with all the lovely cadences that a good poem has.

 THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

The last time I saw that poem
It was getting on a train
For the far north.
It likes it up there,
Crunching about in the ice and snow,
Climbing up small mountains,
Picking up the odd abandoned word or phrase
Lying amongst the grey stones and heather.

By nightfall, it’ll be in its room, changing,
Emptying its pockets onto the bed,
Choosing a word to sparkle here,
A phrase to quietly glow there.
Ready, now, for a night of changing partners.
Until all scrubbed up, brushed down
And wildly excited,
It’s finally ready to dance.

Any time now, I expect that poem to come home.

                                             © 2019 Gwen Grant

THE LION MAN

lion man

 THE LION MAN

This lion man
Is so beautiful
It makes my heart
Tremble.

For in its
Wrecked and lovely
Countenance,
I see
The endurance
Of all
Born from darkness
Into this greater darkness,
Where every soul realizes
Its aloneness.
Its bitter,
Bleak,
Irredeemable
Loneliness.

Yet lovers must love,
Words fall
From loving lips.
Hands touch
Souls
Courageous
In their enduring,
Gentle
In their laughter,
Resolute
In their bold living.

Only compassion
Can bring
Light
To that darkness.
Only hope
Inhabit those frozen
Wastes
Of aloneness.
Only love
Create the Lion man
In us all.

                      © 2019 Gwen Grant