My friend and collaborator the artist Birtley Aris has just finished making some new drawings to illustrate a small pamphlet of work from the Rutland Friends of the Earth Earthwords 2 Writing Competition I helped judge with Clive Anderson and Jon Canter. They’d asked me if I might contribute a couple of poems of my own. These two seemed to fit with the theme and, as usual, Birtley’s images have added a fresh dimension. The whole business of collaboration, the conversation between poet and artist, word and image, an endlessly fascinating one. Where does one end and the other begin? How to describe that third element, what happens in between?
Talking About the Weather
The gardener sat on the old wicker chair,
hands wrapped round a mug of nettle tea –
and even though the room was warm, curtains
drawn against the night, the way we hold
our breath between winter and what might follow –
snowmelt, rainfall, lambing storm, the words
she spoke flung open the door on water, a river
in spate, rushing and roaring between us –
her worst fears of flood and disaster,
an unstoppable lostness sweeping her away,
tossed in the current of truth, lies, testing
the strength of this earth we cling to – as if our lives
were leaves, whispering North, North, North.
After Guiseppe Bartolini’s lithograph, Pisa
Jellyfish fall through the heavens above
the viridescent night of the Orto Botanico.
Count their drifting moons, skullcaps
for the duomo, just visible over the wall – 7, 8,
9. In fact, they’re all parachutists: cumulative grace
at odds with their singular mission; that history
still untold. Let’s say today they wear the ruched silk
of angels, landing within the garden’s jurisdiction.
Watch them unhook their spent umbrellas and pick up
a spade to dig fresh beds or a rake to sweep paths
clear. They’ll unravel the hose to revive parched myrtle
or pelargoniums; reinstate tumbled ceramic, fix
cracked signs and screw the last bolt in new glasshouses.
As the city sleeps, they’ll delve till the trees toll
their boughs in exaltation, each one seen so hard
the people will wake up to the world’s first day.