City beauty

A sequence of short poems inspired by Claudia McGill’s reflections on geraniums at windows.

August_Macke_Geranie_mit_Gardine_1909

There is joy and beauty

beneath the city grime,

and the blackbird’s song

is just the same

beneath this sky.

*

There is beauty in the stone that glints

with the colours of the changing light,

and in the chaotic fluttering of sparrows’ wings.

There is kindness in the dirty blanket

laid beneath an old dog’s head,

and happiness when a greeting is returned,

a stranger’s uncalculating smile.

*

The earth is deep and dark in the garden plot

where snails creep,

elegant and unhurried,

among the stalks.

The earth is deep and full of life

that shoots and climbs higgledy-piggledy,

without order or patience,

riotous and lush,

because the sun and rain fall here as anywhere.

The earth is,

deep and eternal,

beneath my tread,

and over my head,

the sky.

 

And on a lighter note

 

How grey the sky and damp the air

and loud the screech of tyres complaining.

Beyond the cloud and heavy mist

somewhere there’s sun and it’s not raining.

Digging

The dverse prompt is ‘soil’ in all its many aspects and senses. I think I’m going to change this free verse to a haibun.

cottage garden

Digging, here, is wrestling with the arms of history, the roots put down and withered, rolled up and moved on. Trowel scrapes against the rocks and pebbles of other lives, and the old bones of beloved pets. Spikes of rust, chink and clink, hinges from some long-rotted door, nails massive as construction bolts, the pins of decay.

Digging in bulbs and seeds, re-potting, planting, sifting through the layers of dust and waste, we play at creation in our city gardens full of death. Memories crowd of so many ephemeral hands, digging, trowelling through the nuts and bolts, the stones and broken glass of forgotten projects.

Digging. We hope and dream.

And always, when the spring rains come, the dust flourishes.

 

Handfuls of sharp noise,

brittle bottle tops rusting,

beneath, seeds struggle.

 

Ghost

For the Daily Post prompt: ghost

Just to prove practice is worth it, another ghazal. Better, I don’t know, but certainly easier.

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Among the roses, in the place we loved the most,

I thought I saw behind heat shimmer’s veil, a ghost.

 

Running through the blooms I caught but a fleeting glimpse,

The sunlight through the leaves, a face so pale, a ghost.

 

The memories of you and I, sweet summer scents,

I lift my face to seek you there, inhale a ghost.

 

Beneath the falling petals side by side we sat,

Those lost times fading into image frail, a ghost.

 

Illusions haunt me still though you will not return,

Through quiet tears the roses’ scent is stale, a ghost.

Microfiction: Gardening

Today’s word from the Daily Post is ‘diverse’. Diverse is a term that’s getting a lot of air time lately. I’ll leave the more weighty definitions to other people and play with the more frivolous.

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Irene was a gardener. Not like Fred Sutcliff next door who thought a garden was a square of green grass with a border of tea roses round it, and not like Enid Butler who thought a garden was what you had to get rid of if you wanted to keep cars. Irene had green fingers. She dug and mulched and composted. She took cuttings, split and grafted. She made raised beds, rockeries, herb squares and sunken water gardens. Every square inch was planted with something. She knew exactly where each plant would do best, and when it proved to be a stubborn bugger that didn’t conform to type, she moved it until it was satisfied.

Irene’s George had been more like Fred Sutcliff, but he had learned to leave her to the gardening and had stuck to his wood carving instead. Now George had passed on, but the garden was going from strength to strength. It became Irene’s private world.

Irene had a grand daughter, Julie. She had several grand daughters but Julie was the one who liked to have her own bit of garden to dig in. Irene encouraged her, giving her bits of geranium to plant, the odd packet of seeds. She explained which colours went best together, how to plant borders with the tall flowers at the back. Julie listened, and she dug, fed worms to the robin, caught slugs and tipped them over the hedge into Fred Sutcliff’s garden when he was out, and she watched the flowers grow.

Julie’s mother thought it was a funny sort of occupation for a little girl, but she was indulgent, and for Julie’s sixth birthday she gave her a miniature set of gardener’s tools, plant pots and a great armful of packets of seeds. The flowers in the pictures were dazzling, every possible colour imaginable. Julie was entranced.

“You’re lucky, being an April baby.” Irene beamed at her. “We’ll be able to plant out your seeds straight away. We’ll see what your mum’s chosen, and I’ll have a think about where they look best.”

Irene helped Julie clear her corner of the garden, pointed out which seeds should be planted where, which ones weren’t really suitable, and left her to it. It was June before she realised that Julie had gone beyond her remit. Julie’s flowers weren’t obvious at first, growing randomly among the carefully chosen borders and arrangements. But as they gained in size and confidence, and especially as they came into flower, Irene realised the enormity of what her grand daughter had done. Pale pink sweet peas clambered among the bright orange of monbretia, red poppies danced through purple phlox, bold flames of nasturtiums swallowed the delicate blue geraniums. Everywhere colours clashed. The discordant tones of creepers crawled among the delicate spires of lilies, through the rose trees, rambled down the rockeries.

“Look,” Julie said, pointing to the nasturtiums that climbed to her head height along the thorny stems of a pink rose. “Aren’t they pretty?”

“It’s a mess!” Irene said. “They’re all in the wrong places. You can’t mix colours together like that. And you can’t let them climb where they want either.”

“Why not?”

“Because…it doesn’t look right, all those different heights and colours growing next to one another.”

“They do in the field.”

“Exactly! A field is wild. This is a garden.”

Julie gave her grandmother a disappointed look. “I like wild best.”

A bee buzzed past. On its way to the rose, it sampled a sweet pea.

“See,” Julie said. “So do the bees.”

A word about Blackbirds

Two weekends ago (I’m pretending we’re still Monday, day before Finbar’s little drama and before the deluge began again), husband started to cut back the vegetation that regularly grows over our wall and invades the whole neighbourhood. He finished the west facing wall, cutting back the ivy and Virginia creeper, and stopped when he reached the passionflower that was tangled up with a couple of roses and the Mexican thingy. He propped up the ladder in the corner by the shed meaning to finish the job the following weekend.

The next weekend, the heavens were pouring again as if rain was going out of fashion, so the pruning had to wait. Last weekend, when the rain finally stopped, husband went to get the ladder and discovered that he couldn’t. During the deluge, a pair of blackbirds had built a beautiful nest on the top rung.

nest1

nest2

I say a pair of blackbirds. In fact, Mrs Blackbird did most of the building while husband stood guard and drove away the mob of other blackbirds that had their beady eyes on our ladder. Blackbirds are probably my favourite birds, and one of the things I love most about them is their idiosyncratic behaviour. They build exquisite nests, strong, sturdy and perfectly shaped, but they build them in incredibly stupid places. In comparison with some, the top rung of a ladder is quite fiendishly astute. They choose places that are flat, low to the ground, and accessible even to a three-legged cat with arthritis. They make no attempts at concealment so anything on the ground or in the sky can see the nest quite clearly. A nest perched on a ladder in a neighbourhood crawling with cats is not a particularly bright idea. If Trixie was of a normal corpulence she’d be up it in a flash. Not surprisingly, Blackbird mortality is extremely high and although couples produce up to three broods a year, they’re lucky to get one or two eggs through to the autonomous stage.

Reading up on Blackbird behaviour, I thought I found some interesting parallels. Blackbirds pair for life, in theory, but marital breakdown occurs over children, the lack of, fertility problems etc. They are monogamous, in theory, but a surprising proportion of all Blackbird children (about 17%) are born out of wedlock. Although Blackbirds choose the house site together, it is Mrs Blackbird who builds the nest and looks after the children. Mr Blackbird picks fights with other Blackbirds, sings, keeps himself in trim and stands guard over his property. He occasionally babysits so Mrs Blackbird can stretch her wings and make herself a sandwich. Mrs Blackbirds handles the eggs, the babies and the adolescents unless she gets lucky and ends up with babies and adolescents to cope with at the same time, in which case Mr Blackbird is roped in to lend a hand.

Sounds familiar?

Peregrines

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Along the promenade

Between gracious quayside buildings

And the broad majestic river

A pair of falcons swooped low across the path

With shrill otherworldly cries

Like ghostly swallows

Out of season

Out of time

Their savage beauty out of place

Amid the tame scenery

Of gaudy municipal flowerbeds.