(for Peter Hennessy)
I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones - foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums -
fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.
The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age. Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants - their strong lives -
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.
I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.
Kerry Hardiein, from Being Alive, ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe Books 2004
I think this poem will have more meaning for me in a few more years (I don't feel middle aged just yet, and I am not quite ready to be unmoved by the blooming delphiniums) but much of it resonates for me even now. Especially the heaps of weeds lying around! :).
As a critical note--I don't think the woman in the bookstore adds one single thing to the poem. Agree? Disagree?
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Big A little a today!