…I cannot like the scent,
Yet I would rather give up others more sweet,
With no meaning, than this bitter one
(Old Man – Edward Thomas)
Initially, like Thomas’s “Old Man,”
this pungent smell is difficult to place :
familiar – both bitter and yet sweet –
it does not chime with me like other scents.
Hovering on thick air like memories,
it stops me in my tracks and makes me think :
arriving in fresh waves, just like the past,
it leads me to a hedge across the street.
Carefully shaped : dark leaves cut trim and close,
do not disclose the very thing I seek
but, where the shears have missed a growing tip,
tiny white spikes of flowers now persist.
There, softly in late sun, scent speaks to me :
transports me down the vista of the years
to where an old man, dressed in corduroy,
flashes quick shears, watched by a lonely boy.
(After “COOKHAM MOOR”
by Stanley Spencer 1937 )
His is the view this runner saw
approaching Cookham from the Moor,
the High Street hushed as first birds called —
lovers and angels still asleep.
He said ...heaven was to one side *
and, running through just after dawn,
the supernatural lingered still
round corners, behind hedge or wall.
His visions people this small place —
those paintings were his main concern;
the landscapes, like this Cookham Moor
he scorned – made for commercial gain.
Yet in this view I find my past —
those Sunday runs more special now,
memories of my feelings, how
I felt the spirit of this place.
If I could do that run today
would Spencer's visions haunt me still?
Or spectre, with a paint-smeared pram —
a silent presence on this road...
* Gilbert Spencer said that Stanley...”had the idea that
heaven was to one side: walking along the road he turned
his head and looked into heaven.”
SUMMER RAIN HAIKU
Across the window
Hang long strings of heavy jewels :
Raindrops on snail trails.
First there’s the dash from hired coach
To rock pools far along the beach -
Ostensibly off catching crabs,
These girls have eyes, but not for fish.
Boys with their cool new baseball caps
Suddenly start a game of chase;
The girls in flip-flops - strappy tops -
Can’t run too far, so squeal instead.
Escape impossible, they wait -
Motionless as rock pool crabs -
Once caught, these creatures lose allure :
Familiar as family pets.
After the skirmish girls regroup -
Attend to rock pools once again;
Released, they scheme to look mature :
To seem assured…. More dangerous.
THE BUTTERFLY BUSH
Self-sown, on waste ground, in old masonry,
it’s found a toehold on old factory sites,
populates the ruins of stately homes.
Once a cultivar, it slipped away
to set up home beside the railway tracks,
on abandoned buildings, sprouts from broken paths.
Buddleia can outgrow some native plants,
seeds germinate on dry and hostile ground;
its panicles of tiny lilac flowers
are where the bees and butterflies are found.
And, at a time with species in decline,
when campaigns urge Save Butterflies and Bees
our government has found time to decide
that buddleia is no more than a weed…
DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Has declared buddleia to be an “invasive alien species.”