green, so green
Poetry Breakfast ~ at home
Dip into our weekly Poetry Breakfast ~ at home.
This week’s photograph, above, was taken this morning at the woodland end of our garden.
There is such a range of poems for you today – which is one of the many things I love about Poetry Breakfast! The poem ‘Green’ by David Scott, which his wife Miggy sent in, has the lines
‘But now in these green days
when grass is more political,’
and they just took my breath away, with their timely resonance with the politics of green spaces. But enough! Enjoy the poems, thank you to all who have contributed, and especially to our guest poets …
Sending you all much love,
PS The next theme will be ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’
OUR GUEST POETS
Does anyone wear ‘buttonholes’?
We made them for the village fete.
So I was sent up to the gate
of the old man who would have gone
to ‘Grammar,’ if they could have bought
a crested cap, soft shoes for sport.
He passed from village desk to farm.
The one girl he had waited for
ran to an airman in the War.
His sister kept the tiny house.
A courteous, clever man, all said.
In June heat, at a long lane’s end
through the blue gate, on a grass path
I stepped beneath the roses’ cloud.
I saw him bend to stakes, head bowed
by billows of asparagus fern
for farmhand’s collar, or the Queen,
webbed, spread like hands, its tiny veins
crisp as dead leaf, all green, so green.
This poem is by Alison Brackenbury and was published in The Times Literary Supplement
Padding the green alleys of my grass
Watching jackdaws crest upon the roof
I sit, red dock seed rustling by my head.
Great hollyhocks sway up from last year’s roots.
My neighbour’s child cries, her mother shouts
‘I’m busy with the ironing! You must come in or out!’
So she goes in. And it is sad, the quiet,
The grass still warm, seed-silver. Will she lift
Her face from cloth’s slow steam: will she find out
Ironing is duty; summer is a gift?
The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out
We help Marjorie with her zimmer,
Freda shrugs off everyone, threshing
her white-sticked way out of the minibus
across the tussocks, beheading several
lesser-spotted orchids, but Gordon says
“Well, they’re not that rare”. And gradually
we settle. Some perch on boulders,
David and Sasha hold hands
on their plastic-backed tartan rug,
the ones who haven’t got their bus passes yet
lie flat on their backs, almost hidden
by the slowly uncurling bracken.
Alice has forgotten her “seeing glasses”
but says Gregory’s reading ones seem
just the job. Josie has already listed off:
a cat stretching; Anglesey; a woolly mammoth;
and “a thing like a Kenwood mixer”.
Geoffrey points and says: “Is that the Gulf
of Mexico with an oil tanker?” Ranjit has found
Winston Churchill in some cirrus.
Margo’s sunhat has slipped down and she is already
snoring. I’ve brought my folding chair
and neck pillow. I zone out the list-makers,
tune into the oyster-catchers’ double whistles
sonaring off the cloud-filled reservoir.
I look up, shade my eyes, see a fish
with one huge feathered wing
very slowly turning
into a tumbling pile
of bangers and mash.
by Char March
from her collection ‘The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out’ published by Indigo Dreams 2011
Lest we Forget
This quiet graveyard is now eulogised
as ‘wildflower-friendly’: Eggs-And-Bacon
thread through Ladies’ Bedstraw and Self-Heal.
The Norman church displays a list
of the one hundred and three lichen species
found by the enthusiastic British Lichen Society
including the rare Myriospora smaragdula.
We stroll through knee-high Yorkshire Fog
and Sweet Vernal Grass mouthing
the graves’ names, their ages.
Turn a verdant corner and come
upon them: scoured,
buzz-cut, rawly new.
Do they want this regimented scrubbing?
This forever standing to attention:
Why not let this 19 year old, this 22 year old,
this Private, this Lieutenant develop a skin
of lichen, a suit of moss, a softening
Do they want their grasses and wildflowers
shaved to within a millimetre of their soil?
Does this six-monthly assault with electric sander
Or do they wish to rest, to lie
hammocked in the curve of the earth,
to become one with the bearded graves
that cluster round them, that lean in
like ears, like hands ready to soothe,
while the soldiers stand to attention
in uniforms stiff with bleach.
Magnolia goblets brim
the corks are popping on their
sealed canisters of light.
Every garden has its wedding tent
of almond, pink or white.
We could switch off
street lamps, dance all night
almond and magnolia light.
Later we’ll slip and skid
on rubber petal-strew
but now we’re winging
down the street,
our hearts like birds in flight.
In the Cloister Garden
This is the silence that enters my head
before the poem.
This is the green of leaf and grass, this is the peace
before the poem.
This is the sky, the eye of blue, that sees the wren that flirts away
before the poem.
This is my heart that measures its beat like water trickling into this pool
before the poem.
This is the tree whose sap seeps up through my warm veins
before the poem.
This is the branch, the living hand that grasps the pen
before the poem.
These are the life that gives its all for the
sake of the poem.
Thank you so much to Steve for another fabulous poem, and for making the YouTube video to go with it! Steve has been Poet in Residence to Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock, for many years now: it’s good to see you, Steve.
Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine—tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face has come and come—
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there—
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth—
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I had been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave—whatever happens, this is.
from The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977 by Adrienne Rich, pubished by WW Norton.
Thank you, Laura, for giving me this beautiful poem in 1979, introducing me to the wonderful work of Adrienne Rich – a lifelong, life-changing passion!
Green by David Scott
Colour spurs us to philosophise
I never did think grass was just a plant,
but saw it more like custard,
or a towel, something that got rolled out
for lazing on before exams; part of the English kit.
But now in these green days
when grass is more political,
I rather long for it to be a species
and get in close to it with spectacles.
So on this upland grass of Dorset
I wonder how is it that we see green
as green? What process sets
the green in motion, as something known and seen?
I notice how the colour changes with the break
in cloud; or, which edge of the green shoot
shows most green; or, how it weathers into the light
or away; or how the green sheath
is caught by the light, or not, or starts its dull reverse;
or, what the yellow cowslip has to say
to blend the greenness down a shade, when it converses
in a ‘hello, how are you?’ sort of way.
Green doesn’t advertise itself,
except to the sun. Its secret is hidden,
but it can surprise you,
becoming ‘all green on the sudden’.
I think of Mendel, Bateson, Crick,
each surpassing the other in theories;
their models ever more tree-like,
taking over the laboratory.
But for most it’s ‘Green grow the rushes O’,
and here’s to the grass, and the grass to us,
along with the nappies on the hard shoulder,
scattered by the whoosh of the motorway bus.
In the end, how we see the green shoots
depends on what we know of green,
which depends on how much is left to be seen
when we’ve poisoned all England to its roots.
Permission from Miggy Scott, 13.5.2020
Clungunford lanes and gardens
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
A very popular choice: Philip, Tim, Carol and Ali all picked this one out. Do click on both these title links for something a bit special!
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings; and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
from The Emergency Poet edited by Deborah Alma, published by Michael O’Mara Books 2015
Another Dylan Thomas poem here, The Force that through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower, chosen by Jonathan Edwards
Elizabeth picked out verse X, see opposite
Thank you for these choices, Elizabeth
Thank you so much for this incredible photograph ~ Andrew Fusek Peters
Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
Christine chose Green by DH Lawrence
Hilary chose Moonlit Apples by John Drinkwater
Alex chose The Herefordshire Carol by Geoffrey Hill
Alex also chose The Bright Field by RS Thomas from her Collected Poems edited by Anthony Thwaite, Everyman
It doesn’t actually use the word Green but it is about a field in Wales so I think that the field must be very green indeed.
Eat your greens, Miranda,
Like a sensible young girl.
They’ll put colour in your cheeks
And make your hair begin to curl.
They’re good for your complexion,
They help you see at night.
Whatever’s wrong, I tell you
Eating greens will put it right.
For an end to global warming
Eat your greens – it just can’t fail.
You can mend the ozone layer,
You can help to save the whale.
There’ll be global peace and harmony
Before you reach your teens.
You can save the world, Miranda,
If you’ll only eat your greens!
First published in Parents Keep Out!, edited by Brian Moses, Published by Macmillan, 2001.
Tim also chose Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. He says
Of course it’s one of the best known, or known-of, classical English poems, and rightly so. I don’t think it uses the word “green” once. But read it through, all through (it’s long) and see if you don’t find that the whole scene in your mind’s eye has a background of green, all the green shades of the English countryside. It’s a key to what the poem evokes. (In any case it’s a wonderful poem to revisit!).
This painting was made by our dear friend and neighbour for the last twenty years, Paula Williamson.
I do hope you have enjoyed your Poetry Breakfast ~ at home. Please feel free to add poems, comments or suggestions in the comments box below. Till next time …
(yes this is still the right email!)
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