Capler

The Wye, South Herefordshire. Photo by me.

 

Hey you, who abandoned me at life’s worst moment; who lied to all of us. Who told me of a love, un-encounterable to most. The path that cut steep down through red soils was lined by light. Tiny stars of wood anemone watched over my eager feet as I moved down through the bluebells having their first conversations with the early bees. All seemed so narrow, a weight, but with an unfurling canopy of shock-green saving me from a complete molten, lead sky.

 

But at the base, where woods fall literally into the river, the sky came in with a bright summer blue, and I stopped to take a deep breath. Breaths are gold, each one, even on ventilin. The river moved like a sliding plate of silver down the table, pausing by me, almost stationary, to hear an ornicophony of riverbirds, and the faint shriek of peregrine somewhere high above. Remember, you asked me to write a poem.

 

Everything opened up to me at this place, Capler, and to everything, flowing through my veins and into my lungs and to the lips. This was what I came for. To try to heal.

 

I’m suffering again, not in your arrogance, in your image fixed into the eye of red-bellied black snake (poor snake), but a realisation that a lifetime of my own difficulty here at my desk, might be a neural difference, an unbidden mindset, unseen and unfelt by all who have tried to help me until now. I don’t like the terminology (this is a symptom too), though I sometimes give too much of my attention, and am hardly inattentive to others. But it only takes a hairline fracture to let the light into pitch black.

 

The DNA-flow of great grandmothers, grandmothers who died by their own hand, mothers (me), daughters who swim beautifully but who still feel they are drowning ~ I just thought this is what it meant to be a woman. To be let down by men.

 

Apparently, only a few are weighted by this “attention deficit”. The anxiety that has ripped through all life’s traumas—there have been many, about as many men in our lives—I just thought we were sensitive. Perhaps, that’s just all we are. It’s hard to contemplate another turn of mental anguish ~ I’ve only just come off the pills.

 

So the path swings left as the river widens into the most exquisite vista to the south, the Wye leaning into a high slope of woods, carving the opposite bank where thick Herefordshire farmland sits heavy. There’s a grandmother over there, with her granddaughter, and they are throwing pebbles in the stream. Bredwardine memories stop me still and then empty me.

 

Butterflies filled me up ~ at least six species; little flighty wings got my attention. I sat among them for a moment, down in the undergrowth, smiling with them. How do you tell a butterfly she is beautiful? Then the path sunk into the bedrock cascading in steps to where the salmon try to run old Ballingham, where the proto indo european rip of riparian—that deep climatic tear—is plain for all to see. More butterflies lay prone on the rock, soaking in the heat. I felt lost there, truly lost in that most profound, good sense.

 

When I came to my other senses, where dream-brain switches into task-brain (as I am now told), I followed a bee into a wide holloway, pushing up into the steeps under Capler Hill Fort, and into a vast auditorium that would have blown your mind.

 

Ravens sounded their wings in circles above me (put that sound in my pocket and save it for later). Giant red-tailed bumblebee queens looked like tiny ants as they rustled their buzz under dry, tongued ferns. All the passerines from all over the Earth were here it seemed, super-high among the quarry-top trees. One oak lay crashed down at the bottom of the cliff, fallen from the topsoil that looked so thin at the top. Another big tree that looked small because of the scale dangled precariously, its roots like tentacles feeling the air. All life is so reliant on that thinness.

 

Then, to hear a slow-rising noise, the shallowest anthrophony of cessna above, of brightly coloured canoe-shouters in the channel, and a sit-on-lawnmower droning slowly towards me. Here, at this place! I could hardly contain my anger. I talked to him later when I’d cooled down, about grass clippings and river ecology—they don’t mix—and he talked to me about keeping things tidy for the tourists, and the fly-fishing licenses; saving the kids from being stung by nettles (I laughed out loud); saving Earth from the scourge of balsam. And litter, to be fair. Even a Ford Capri. And I thanked him for that.

 

I walked back alongside his engine, and we stopped to listen to the noisy peregrines eyeing two-day old ducklings swimming the big, scary river, in little flurries.

 

The man told me the quarry I’d found may have been the source of the red sandstone that is now Hereford Cathedral. A hole in a hill the size of nine hundred years. These peregrines live there now, perched on the quarry ledges. Peregrines also hunt their quarry around the Cathedral tower.

 

I think I found a feather of a female the other day near the remains of a dead pigeon. It’s pinned to my notice board for me to admire the inward beauty of her. Like a shock.

 

Then one flew right over me casting avumbra. And that was the healing moment of the day. The silence of avumbra. I came home wanting, by the habit of four years, to tell the image of me in the mirror ~ you. I wanted to tell the other one too, the earliest bud of cherry blossom, but he’s just told me he found someone else, before the flowers have even fallen to the ground.

 

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Who Knows ~ A poem for Ginny, by Elizabeth Rimmer

 

There are people who know the world
in specifics – not gull, but black-backed,
(lesser and greater), black-headed,
common, glaucous and herring.

There are people who know the woods –
not trees, but oak, willow, hazel,
aspen, and lime, and not oak
but sessile or pedunculate.

There are people who learn the names,
the Latin, the genus, the cultivar,
making lists for countries and years,
and the life-list with all the ticks –
the bbjs, and the gaps they need to fill.

And then, there are other people
whose hands and eyes know everything,
who taste the wind for salt or coming rain,
who find the right leaf or root or berry
for health or flavour, without a word spoken.

There are people who know their gardens
like their family, their lawn like their own skin,
a new bird by the frisson the cat makes,
even before the stranger’s call
breaks into the grey still morning.

And who can tell us which of these
knows best, knows more, can teach,
protect or harvest earth and sky
and water for the common good?

Or shall we try for both, a lore
of senses, heart and mind at one,
where knowledge and compassion
are held in equal balance, equal trust?

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Elizabeth Rimmer is Makar for the year 2016, Federation of Writers (Scotland).

I’m honoured to present her work here, and immensely touched this was written for me. Thank you Elizabeth, for an enduring feeling of joy.

Elizabeth was born in Liverpool, moving to Scotland in 1977. Her first collection Wherever We Live Now was published in 2011 by Red Squirrel Press. Her second collection The Territory of Rain was published by Red Squirrel Press in September 2015, and officially launched Feb 2016 at the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh.

Her work has also appeared in Poetry Scotland, Stravaig, Northwords Now, Brittle Star, Gutter, and Drey, and on-line in The Stare’s Nest and Zoomorphic.

She blogs at www.burnedthumb.co.uk.

Britain’s native daffodil

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Narcissus pseudo narcissus by Ginny Battson © 2016

“It had been huddling like an old gray woman
grabbing her shawl, in an underground house,
stirring a promise to return.
Soon its six petals harmonic sense will bring love”.

(Daffodils by Martin Willitts Jr, Dylan Thomas International Poetry Award – Winning Poem 2014)

Britain’s native daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp pseudonarcissus, the Lent Lily, is a tribute to the powers of early Spring. She brings light and gentle movement to the stiller, wetter soils, whilst also foretelling of community, gathering in ‘crowds’ as poet William Wordsworth also witnessed.

The Victorian ‘Language of Flowers’ suggests a daffodil speaks of unrequited love, but I know this not to be true. I feel her generous love, despite other claims. There is a fullness and warmth to it, and I urge others to seek it out, at least once in a lifetime. Relish the glow, with each petal a ray of sun and easy intelligence. Her yellow sparkles will bring you a broad smile.

Once so common, she now survives only in patchy corners of woods, paddocks and orchards, mostly to the West of Britain. Yet, exquisite in her survival of the ravages of modernity, she charges me with a sense of hope. We are far less without hope.

There is a ‘crowd’ of native daffodils I know residing in the hillside hamlet where I grew up. Thankfully, there are still wilder corners of the hill spared from modern human drives for uniformity, though I do worry about the local ‘conservation’ group and their tendency for cutting back and burning. Regardless, the daffodils flower in between expensive properties that were once farm workers’ cottages, and hardcore tracks paving the way for Landrovers instead of work horses and carts. I could take you straight to the spot, under young trees, with enough light on a south facing slope, and enough moisture in short, mossy understory. Above a subterranean swell of bulbs and roots, the small, paler blooms glow to greet us. It’s hard not to lay down in the damp, and listen to their seemingly wide open mouths, corona painted a richer yellow than their petals.

There’s a light breeze flowing through short stalks and grey-green leaves so you’ll have to listen closely….. “love you, love life.”

I’ve stolen some photos, selfishly hoarding them as a reminder for a darker time, to bring me warmth when most needed. It won’t be the full effect, but enough to tip a balance.

In exchange, I write this in honour of our native daffodil, so that we may preserve, cherish and encourage her to flourish in golden crowds. I ask you to rage against anyone trying to harm her. Enjoy her conversation. Most of all, accept her love and the love of her kind. And you might wish to return it, for it’s in giving that joy is really to be found.

For more on UK’s native daffodil, do click through to Kew

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