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The Gun Site

A Norwood allotment pastoral

from Part I, Spring

When the year’s first warmth loosens the leaves from their buds,
where bronze of their unopened sheaths had made the woods,
a month before, like the blood’s iron beneath the skin,
the colour of life, we begin to work the ground.
Levering it up in single lumps on the tines,
still heavy with quick-melting snow and the March rain,
as we stoop to break the clods into finer crumbs,
our knuckles soon know how the cold clings on in clay.
But we who labour from desire and not for want,
not punishing our backs, can stand to let the light
green that illuminates the trees’ crowns refresh us.
And then one morning after a night that had poured,
after days of gloom and thunder, that brightness that
before just pierced the dense, impending skies briefly,
edged the sullen cloud with clean white steel, and opened
a promise of blue beyond, has the upper hand.
The afternoon grows hot, unseasonably. Sun
absolves our bodies of care, the city’s coating
of minor angers, anxiety, duplicity,
which seem gathered between the clothing and the flesh,
and in the scarlet that brims them under closed lids
washes out the dead print and pixels from our eyes,
and takes us back to the good world we were made in
and bathes us in the memory of where we are.
The may tree’s white as a wave that spouts up a rock;
poplars play warm winds their rustling summer music.
Three such days, and hands find the earth at body-heat.
Three such days, and the hands that were formed but feeble,
the foliage hands like infants’, pressing further
forward, further through, take a firm grip on the air.
Outlines around us soften, are filled and rounded,
and we come once more to the place of arrivals.

John Gibbens


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