Theme for February is places - perhaps the places we wish we could travel to!
My Garden by Vicky Darling
a wilderness of plants proliferating, weeds,
wasps, worms, woodlice, scarlet centipedes,
breeding, feeding, multiplying, jostling for space
amongst ground elder, chickweed, bindweed.
There’s the everlasting bonfire
that smokes, but does not consume, and the dreaded shed,
with pyramids of plastic pots, rusting tools, tangled twine,
recalcitrant mower, evil smelling sacks of compost,
blood and bone, of noxious substances that kill and
poison, decimating slugs, greenfly, whitefly
blackspot on the roses.
Oh, for a proper gardener, touching his forelock
by the kitchen door, holding a trug, potatoes freshly dug,
crisp curly parsley, a few ripe raspberries covered with a leaf,
Will there be anything else missus? He gratefully accepts
a mug of tea, sets to, digging, mulching,
pruning, hoeing, raking, watering, knocking some sense
into wilful perennials, standing them to attention,
while I would sit, reading a novel under the magnolia tree,
glancing at him, benevolently.
Kitchen Catalogue By Vicky Darling
I’ve known steamy, flypapered kitchens
with crumbs in drawers, spongy wooden spoons
cracked breadboards, blackened baking tins,
wobbly handled saucepans, flappy washing,
funny smells in the larder, that old Christmas pudding
with its yellowing cloth tied up with string,
and as for the cupboard under the sink
best not to look in there at all.
There are kitchens, where food
is never cooked They buy it ready made
like dolls house meals stuck on to plates.
Gleaming pristine surfaces, islands
of stainless steel, odourless and comfortless
are reminiscent of a morgue.
I prefer a place to sit and talk,
with elbows on the table, cups of tea, a glass of wine,
the close conspiracy of women.
Cats sprawl on wicker chairs,
dogs thump their tails beneath the table,
even the dishwasher hums and splutters peacefully.
Men’s kitchens are a different
kettle of fish. They have butcher’s blocks
to pound big bloody steaks, they tear at gentle herbs
with urgent hands and grind their huge priapic pepper mills
above defenceless pasta.
There’s my kitchen, a refuge,
the heart of the house. I iron and fold the linen
listening to Bach. I crimp my pies and blend
warm soups, marvelling at the transformation
of dough into bread, risen cakes and golden marmalade.
Basho in Ireland
TEA BY THE ROCHERS DE PUYCHAUD by John Souter, September 1997
A short climb from the road
Lie the stones.
Geologically rounded in a rough circle
A megalithic sculpture of granite tortoises
Mounting one on another,
Balanced point to point.
Squeezed light squints between,
Brassy moss pours over
Textures of silver lichen.
Long fingers of crack-rooted oaks
Hold the pebble rocks in a giant's hand.
A tiny wind moves their branches
Crackling the browning leaves.
In the centre of this ancient ring
We have set a picnic kettle
Boiling to make tea;
A holiday libation to the local genii.....
Then a sudden louder crack
Shocks the surrounding silence;
Somewhere in the woods
A tree or branch has fallen.
Not seen, but not unheard.
Inside the encircling stones
The vibrations of sound
Have impinged on our ears.
We are here.
We mark its fall.Peggy's Poems
ST GERVAIS by Michael Roberts 1902-48
Coming out of the mountains of a summer evening,
Coming out of the mountains
Coming among men, and limousines,
and elegant tall women, and hotels
with private decorative gardens,
Coming among dust,
After the distant cowbells, bringing
memory of mule-tracks, slithering snow,
wild pansies, and the sudden
loose clattering of rock,
I remembered Sunday evenings, churchbells and cinemas
and clumsy trams
searching interminable streets
for quiet slums, the slums where I
remembering St Gervais and the gorges, linger, bringing
in the worn shell of air, the pines,
the white-cloud-vision of Mont Blanc, and up
beyond Les Contamines, the seven shrines.
THE NEW LONDON by John Dryden, written after the Great Fire (with rather a lot of hubris - maybe justified just then?)
Methinks already, from this Chymick flame,
I see a city of more precious mould,
Rich as the town which gave the Indies name,
With silver paved, and all divine with gold.
Already, Labouring with a mighty fate,
She shakes the rubbish from her mounting brow,
And seems to have renewed her Charter's date,
Which Heaven will to the death of time allow,
More great than humane now, and more August,
New deified she from her fires does rise;
Her widening streets on new foundations trust,
And, opening, into larger parts she flies.
Before, she like some Shepherdess did show,
Who sate to bathe her by a River's side;
Not answering to her fame, but rude, and low,
Nor taught the beauteous arts of Modern Pride.
Now, like a Maiden Queen she will behold,
From her high Turrets hourly Suitors come;
The East with Incense and the West with Gold,
Will stand, like Suppliants, to receive her doom.
The silver Thames, her own domestick flood,
Shall bear her vessels, like a sweeping Train;
And often wind (as of his mistress proud)
With longing eyes to meet her face again.
The wealthy Tagus, and the wealthier Rhine,
The glory of their towns no more shall boast;
And Seine, that would with Belgian River joyn,
Shall find her lustre stain'd, and Traffick lost.
The venturous Merchant, who designed more far,
And touches on our hospitable shore;
Charmed with the splendour of this Northern Star,
Shall here unlade him, and depart no more.
Our powerful Navy shall no longer meet,
The wealth of France or Holland to invade;
The beauty of this Town, without Fleet,
From all the world shall vindicate her Trade.
And, while this famed Emporium we prepare,
The British Ocean shall such triumphs boast,
That those who now disdain our Trade to share,
Shall rob like Pirates on our wealthy Coast.
Already we have conquered half the War,
And the less dangerous part is left behind;
Our trouble now is but to make them dare,
And not so great to vanquish as to find.
Thus to the Eastern wealth through storms we go;
But now, the Cape once doubled, fear no more;
A constant Trade-wind will securely blow,
And gently lay us on the Spicy shore.
The Well of St. Keyne
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
Matthew Arnold - 1822-1888
The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast, the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
2. A place, a time. By Tricia
As I walked out this grey, cold afternoon,
I spied a raven perched atop a sprig –
A pole - amongst the wintered scrub and bushes,
And thought his air quite oddly melancholic.
It seemed he peered, in calm consideration,
Down, down the deeply falling hillside,
And, if he saw me, gave no wince nor shudder,
But stayed his gaze, intent, in contemplation.
He struck a pose like some old, wizened farmer
Leaning on a gate, with elbows resting -
The long past, part of his reflection: an era gone;
A different queen upon the British throne.
Yet, what he saw was not the 1860’s –
No pony trap, or carriage drawn by horses - but
Now, a constant, endless flow of traffic
Teeming, up and down a ‘70s six-lane highway.
And when I moved, he cocked his head, just sideways,
And shifted on his pole. With wearied wings, he
Lifted up his scythe-worn, coal-black shoulders,
To press the air, and leave this time, and me, alone.