Alone like this, everything but me
is green. My shark tooth crown keeps me safe.
Perfectly bucolic, I am wrapped
in Friesian camouflage, on a rise
above the garden of my body,
all avenue, topiary and field.
Three white ghosts stay close to the fountain,
and my pony and my hound are tied
to the clipped trees of their tails. This year
there will be pears and the flesh of deer.
More birch than beast, I stand in a ring
at a distance from my own shadow.
Beneath my feet lies the underworld –
bats, nesting birds and the dead asleep.
nesting birds and the dead asleep
I think I spend too much time thinking
about hospitals – how the word’s germ
is the Latin hospes, meaning guest
or stranger; how the world swivels on
a pin; how we need the company
of strangers to make our own strangeness
less. Folds of cloth conceal my face. Don’t
help. Nor the straw-clutching cheerfulness,
my jaunty yellow hat. Heron legs,
dry sticks on wheels, aren’t enough to hold
a human soul up – I risk turning
into a medical screen: my strange
new guests, a raven, an aloof giraffe.
The land is black and the sky is black.
the land is black, the sky is black
In this terroir – agricultural,
with slow pregnant sheep, people walking
(at a proper distance) to kill time –
you are growing larger and larger,
taller than the ash and cypress, feet
rooted, religiously bare – as if
the land you’re locked in was Lilliput:
you tower above it, a white wedge
with your wild swans flying like omens,
laying their songs in your hands, an egg
for smaller times, when your wheaten hair
will be harvested and milled for flour
because the people need bread, new air.
people need bread, new air
Linda France is the author of eight full-length poetry collections including The Simultaneous Dress (Bloodaxe 2002), The Toast of the Kit Cat Club (Bloodaxe 2005), and most recently Reading the Flowers (Arc 2016). She also edited the acclaimed anthology Sixty Women Poets (Bloodaxe 1993). Her poem ‘Bernard and Cerinthe’ won the Poetry Society’s 2013 National Poetry Competition.