Seeing Into The Life of Things

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Issue 324
January/February 2021
Resilience

Regulars
Poetry

Seeing Into The Life of Things
by

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Cover: Artwork by Leah Duncan www.leahduncan.com @leahduncan

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Amid a reflective period of lockdown, Peter Abbs explores some new poetry.

Artwork by Stef Mitchell www.etsy.com/uk/shop/fieldandhedgerow Instagram @stefmitchellprint

Artwork by Stef Mitchell www.etsy.com/uk/shop/fieldandhedgerow Instagram @stefmitchellprint

Many people found the dramatic conditions imposed by lockdown as all but unbearable, but at the same time, even while shocked by the grim statistics of mortality, others came to experience the sudden slowing down of life as both healing and restorative. It gave individuals an opportunity to live more reflectively, observe more acutely, and, as the world became so much less noisy and polluted, to live more closely to Nature. The day’s political news turned into the day’s Nature news. As the blackthorn blossom gave way to hawthorn and the hawthorn gave way to the frail pink and white petals of the dog rose, I watched, as if for the very first time, the slow rotation of the season. And, as I watched, I found myself struggling to find words for what I saw, only to discover I had entered another dimension of being. For, immediately, the language of flowers blossomed into the archetypal metaphors of grace and connection. The poems gathered here bear witness to this extraordinary power of observing and connecting, of perception transmuting into vision until, as Wordsworth put it so memorably, “with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.”

THE DEFLECTOR

Near Beeston, in my father’s Ford: we plunge
into the woods. It’s late, I’m five years old,
entranced by how a hedgerow lit by headlamps
explodes into a flurry of pale wings,
the cold glare of a wide archaic mask –
eclipsed a moment later. And the trees
that stretch their talons out from fairy tales.
Our bonnet has a celluloid deflector
shaped like a little open book: supposed
to shield our windscreen from the clouds of moths
that plaster themselves helpless on the glass,
the fragments of a world Dad will scrape off
without a second thought.

Six decades later

I drive the same road. The oaks are there
but not the owls or insects. An occasional
frail ghost flits in the glare. We were so sure
of our few destinations. Now it seems
we’ve come so far there may be no way back.

Grevel Lindop

WATER SPIDER

Dive, diving at ditch edge
through featherfoil and dropwort

eight-legged swimmer,
quicksilver glimmer

of air-pocket hairs,
mercury wet.

Silk-spun underwater
hollow stem to hollow stem

air-bubble breath
of oxygen web.

Carbon, nitrogen,
gaseous exchange.

Bell-jar for prey:
night-hunted shrimp,

phantom midge,
water-mites, stickleback.

Dive, diving spider
courtship swims,

tunnels the gill-web
of silver mate,

makes water-pocket eggs,
spiderlings.

Nitrogen-less,
collapsing web.

Breathless
quick, quick, surfacing

glimmer-swimming
eight-legging quick

up to ditch edge, featherfoil,
dropwort, oxygen.

Kim Lasky

SHAKING THE BAY

Our ancient bay tree quivers
with a hint of storm.

Why then, if trucks upturn
on every highway, do I exult

at this forecast soon to test
the fettle of our window panes?

It must be some longing
for catastrophe, a judgement

on broken promises, and all
the flummery of being human.

Far out there on the Atlantic
the hurricane is roiling in.

This will is more than weather.
We count its isobars, or think

to tame it with a familiar name.
Not so the bay tree. It half recalls

how women shook these boughs,
and prophesied the end of days.

Paul Matthews

OLD AGE

Old age
is like a railway terminus.

All known tracks converge
and come to an end.
There’s no going back,

only forward
into the darkness of uncertainty,
where lies
the uncharted landscape
of the heart,
the journey inward,
ringed round by grief,
you undertake alone.

Pat Calhoun

ENVY

Just when the kestrel became the oak tree is uncertain.
It could even be the moment the oak tree became the bird

so united in their camouflage but for the February sun
hinting at something softer than wood, a texture blurred

in the thin first light. You had to look twice to see it move.
I envy Darwin two centuries ago, in an unknown world

with a hawk so unused to people, he could give it a shove
and it flew above their heads, wings and tail unfurled

against the expanse of blue, before returning to the tree.
Or Hopkins who honoured the beauty of the bird in verse

glittering with dappled praise, everything that I could see
as the kestrel dropped to the ground, barred feathers first

opening and closing, the fanned tail spread for balance.
Or the knave who loved his first bird, earned the token

of flying a hawk, a lady’s bird, learned the power of dance
and dizzying flight, and how a human heart is broken.

Ann Williams

Peter Abbs was the Poetry Editor for Resurgence/Resurgence & Ecologist magazine for over 20 years. He was Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Sussex and published eleven volumes of poetry including The Flowering of Flint and Voyaging Out. Peter Abbs sadly passed away in December 2020. www.peterabbs.net

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