Since when

Since when

Since when, no records tell
the age of these stones,
the paths trod by those long dead,

forgotten the hands that dug
and planted, herded
and filled the winter barns.

No comfort lingers in these stones,
the floors of terracotta
colour of autumn leaves,
only the chill of damp earth
and a wealth of love and heartache.

Silent as stones,
house sits,
a sentinel on the hillside,
rootless but unyielding,
remembering what has gone,

nodding in the winter sun
at the rainbow path
and those who have taken it,
their padding steps still echoing.

A rose is

For the dverse prompt.

The old man whose home this was before it was ours, was born here before the Great War. His mother planted a rose bush by the door. It’s still here, vigorous. It has produced the offspring he and his wife sadly never did.

Can a rose be a monument,
a reminder of a past slipping away
inexorably?

Did she know when she planted this bush,
not barley, not tobacco, not tomato or potato,
this frivolous, pale-petaled flower,
that could not be harvested or sold,
that it would still be here,
its scions flowering along the walls,
long after barley, tobacco and tomatoes had gone,
cows sold, pig sties dismantled?

Could she, whose hands planted and hoed,
mended and milked, have known,
long after wars and occupation,
times of dearth and empty fields,
and the long march across the Alps
of the poor who would make them flourish again,
that I, not Gasconne, not of this Italo-Occitanian soil,
would cup those same petals in my hand
and remember?

Chuck out the old, drag in the new

It’s the last day of the year, and since it’s pouring with rain outside, not fit to put a dog out, I have decided it’s time to take stock of the year gone by. Really, I want to remember some of the good things because there have been quite a few not so good things.

I clocked up about a trillion novel rejections BUT I self-published two small collections of poems.

The boiler gave up the ghost BUT, miracle of miracles, we got a plumber to put in a new one within four days (they had one out the back).

We found that the prehistoric stone sink in the kitchen situated at roughly mid-thigh height on a normal person can’t be removed. It’s set in a sort of sarcophagus of solid stone and cement and ripping it out would probably bring the wall down. BUT husband has built a proper sink on top of it which looks pretty smart.

We couldn’t have everybody here for Christmas BUT we did get a new oven so I’ll be able to cook properly when we do have a family gathering.

The Covid made contact of any kind well nigh impossible BUT it meant that husband didn’t have any more one-hour train journeys into Bordeaux to teach but could zoom his lessons from home.

The house is freezing cold in winter BUT while everybody else is dying during the inevitable summer heat waves, we don’t feel it more than pleasantly warm.

Trixie destroyed a kilim by vomiting bird seed all over it BUT it seems to have cured her of stealing the birds’ food.

Finbar has gone stone deaf and can’t hear when we yell at him to stop doing something BUT nor does he hear the things that go bump in the night so he doesn’t come into our room at three in the morning needing a cuddle.

Best news of all, although we’ve seen hardly anything of family this year, next year there will be even more of them to see. Our eldest is expecting her first baby in the spring!

All in all, as we say over here, le bilan est globalement positive!

Coming home

autumnhouse

Coming home,

returning to the calm

of a mother’s arms,

the smiling face,

sun on pale walls,

the smell of new-mown hay,

the song of a thrush.

 

Coming home,

treading known paths,

touching the breath of the breeze,

sunbeams streaming

through foliage, glitter on water,

and saying this is mine,

nowhere else does this light fall.

Dawn

Bambi2

I love this place with its layers of song

and the traces of criss-crossing hoof and paw

bird voices calling taking it in turns

to send echoes racing.

 

I love it as I love Redon colours

the tragic beauty of a Marc

intangible elusive

brushed with fingertips never seized

always the onlooker.

 

We think we own because we have measured

signed papers handed over cash.

 

Wind blows.

 

Sunlight stretches leaves unfurl

blossom scatters in the wind.

A shower patters, ringing wild garlic bells.

The blackbird looks at me with bright eye,

tugs at a worm.

 

I watch the world whisk by

in the flash of a white scut.

Haibun for a departure

 

On the telephone lines, the swallows gather, preparing their things for the departure, meeting old friends perhaps, rounding up children, chattering quietly of this and that and the nature of water. In their midst, a single turtle dove perches, enthralled by their stories of the great rolling sea, the rolling sky and the rolling clouds, the desert rolling bleached and bare and beyond, a place where the winter months of cold would be a cruel memory.

Is she tempted, the gentle bird, or is it he? Does he dare to imagine winter warmth and no guns? Probably not, the wild grey sea and the parched desert, shadowy images behind her anxious eyes, as she scans the meadow for fallen seeds.

an ending

an ocean of anguish

the call of home

drawing in the threads

another turn of the wheel

Room with a view

Lately, the weather has been wind, rain, storm, sun, repeat. From my desk, in the angle between two windows, I see the changing sky and how the wind and rain set the air in motion. Each evening, the wind drops, the sun comes out and I can hear the birds rather than the wind sighing. Straight ahead, I look west.

from west window.jpg

and over my left shoulder, I look out of the south-facing window.

 

from south window

and if I go to the south window and look right, this is what I see.

 

south window looking west.jpg

The sky and the trees are in constant movement, but I love the peace that falls at the end of the day.

 

calm as a still lake

at dusk when swans roost and

only nightingales

make the air tremble with

their ceaseless song

 

 

Morning light

I took some photos this morning, it was so still and warm. Amid the usual racket of thrushes, blackbirds, wood pigeons, nightingales, great tits and woodpeckers, (and the bactrian army) I could hear the first flutes of the golden orioles from the poplars and somewhere close the oop-oop-oop of the hoopoes. Everyone who is anyone has arrived. Spring can begin.

April19hedge.jpg

Looking west and south.April192.jpg

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Looking into the sunrise and the pond where the bactrian orchestra practices.

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Poplars, hibiscus and the rose tree planted round about the time of the Great War.

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North side of the house where we ought to build a moat for drainage. One day…

April196.jpg

Bear’s garlic grows everywhere in the shade by the house. Like white blue bells…but the smell isn’t exactly the same.

Bear'sgarlic1.jpg

The meadow is full of blue flax flowers. Too much light to get the colour though.

flax flowers1.jpg

 

So much light

caught in petal bowls

bounced along blades of grass

fueling root and stalk

jungle of life.

 

Leaving the nest

The Daily Inkling prompt about the hardest nest-leaving prompted me to write about the last time I ever set foot in my parent’s home. I’ve never written about it before. It must be time.

 

There was a stillness about the house as if she had just gone upstairs, or out to buy the bread, an expectancy, a trail of her perfume in the air. I could almost hear her departing steps, the click of the door. My eyes went to the chair by the window that my dad hadn’t sat in for ten years. Exactly ten years. The symmetry was unbearable, as hard as the tidiness.

She had known before anyone even knew she was sick, terminally sick, that it was over, life, living, walking the hills with her friends, nattering with us all on the phone, always a visit planned. She had spent those last weeks folding the linen away neatly, cleaning out the fridge, throwing away everything that was worn or torn or would be of no use to anyone else. Afterwards.

She permeated the air particles with that faint scent of a perfume that nobody else wore. Nothing was out of place. Everything was clean, shelves dusted, the rental paid on the TV up to the end of the month. She had even renewed the subscription at the DVD place, up to the end of the month. By then, the funeral would be over and we would have all gone home.

I wept over every still, faintly perfumed corner of that house where I had never lived. It had been my parents’ house, where they lived. Their nest. But I realised then, in that moment of sitting in a front room that had never been mine, with siblings around me, together as we had so rarely been in that house, that the house didn’t matter. It could have been a pile of dust on the dark side of the moon, but that tidiness, that delicate thoughtfulness, the faint perfume that permeated it, made it home.

After the funeral, the house died too, and we put it to rest. We emptied it of the carefully folded linen, the mementos, photos, her paintings, the furniture, all that she had thought would be useful or would please us to have, and we laid the stones to rest. My parents’ nest was empty. We have it all now, the twigs and pebbles lovingly gathered, in our hearts.