Bailiffgate Museum Group, Alnwick

Sway


I
An Autumn Play

A surprising riverscape is revealed
As the greenest scenes of summer wane.
The stage has altered.
Now it is earthy browns, mottled leaves.
I thought it was the start of decay.
But the foliage curtain has raised
To unveil
Quite a different set.
A willow tree.
Horizontal, arms and fingers dip
Into the listening river
While her mossy roots reach up.
A frilly petticoat of fungi and lichen
Drips prettily around her ankles.
Along her trunk life teams
Can you hear?
And offshoots spiral skywards.
These small thin branches point towards the sun.
Clouds of tiny leaves
Halo their heads.
It’s not a rehearsal, this
Germination
In the midst of decay.

 

II
Fading Away

Rendezvous Café down on the front.
Cups of tea warm winter fingers –
white from wandering streets on teenage feet.
Waiting to be noticed by passing boys
who laugh at me, my spotty face,
my fat body, slowly changing,
getting thinner, every day.

Nil by mouth, self prescribed.
Starved of sugar, acne fades.
One day, someone will say
haven’t you got nice skin –
watch you don’t fall
down that pavement crack.

 

III
Tenderness

Don’t despair
When the wind blows cold and constant from the north
And icy tears streak your ashen face below a woolly hat
It is winter after all, and you know it will soon end.
Don’t despair
When persistent rain drowns all hope
And dampens the little pleasures
A winter’s day can bring –
Remember spring
Coiled just around the corner
Waiting to surprise you again
Like an unexpected cup of tea in bed.
It says come in, take off your coat,
Be welcome
Life is stirring in the fields
and hedgerows.

 

IV
A Space Punctuated by Trees

A feather alights on a leaf
Quills of sunlight inscribe the forest
Illuminated branches wait in quiet hope
Under a shawl of moss and fungus worms burrow
Ingrained in this silent arbour
Nature waits
For the bloom of bluebells
For the birds

 

V
Time on the Line

I marvel at the carefully-crafted, tiny-waisted skirt I had sewn for my daughter.
White embroidery anglaise dotted with little strawberries,
it catches the sunlight as I peg it on the washing line.
Here, my small son’s pop-buttoned trousers with an appliquéd bib,
next, a pretty cream-coloured pageboy’s outfit with frilly cuffs
borne bravely by his brother.

Some dolls’ clothes – a little, lacy, green knitted dress
worn by Natalie, a favourite doll,
won in a ‘Guess the Name’ competition.

I am pegging out my memories on this line.

Tears well up as my heart lurches backwards
to those mothering days long gone
when I could enfold my three chicks in one embrace.
My life is full and happy, I know,
but for a moment, I am knocked off balance
by time blowing in the wind.

 

VI
January

A filigree of rowan branches shivers
lit by a lamp’s reflection

through half-closed shutters.
Headstrong, you push into a squall

bend downhill towards the fire blazing
in the Blue Waiting Room. The wind scours
your skin, tosses autumn rags
into the gutter, ruffles

the surface of puddles. Blows
your umbrella inside out –

Silver spikes frame an unexpected view.

When you return, the rowan tree still stands,
curls roots into the earth, bare branches in the storm.

Winter light pours honey down the terrace.

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future. Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer