Singing For Mr Bear

Singing for Mr Bear on the Speckled Mountain

I stoop to pick his bilberries
that scratch my ankles
cram the lush fruit in my mouth.
Purple hands - he will know.

My path is a thin track for deer or elk or lynx
twisting between granite rocks and green
mounds of moss, the red trunks of pines -
a pale ribbon stapled to the brilliance of the sky.

They say he has a wife on each of the surrounding hills.
In the moist earth of the valleys
Eva has seen his footprints wandering.

I climb into silver moss-clouds.
I shouldnít have come on my own.

I start to sing
my voice breaking at first.
Eva says if he knows Iím here
heíll not hurt me.

I sing out for him whose hill this is. 


When I was as old as winter
the storm drove from the west Ė

clouds bleached the yellow
segment of the moon

trapped it in a filigree of twigs
that swept the sky:

hollies were lumpen, dark, and swayed
in the wind and distant bird-chirrup

a silent thrush scribbled
black among the stars

cloud closed the eye of the moon. 

In sun I walked and saw
buds pointed on the hazel
rounded on the sycamore.

Picking wild raspberries

The berries slip easily
swollen by summer rain
from their stalks into my juice-stained fingers
as I stoop to lift the fruit-freighted canes

above the tangle of new growth, willowherb and nettles -
I gather the berries in the palm of my hand,
collect them in the blue colander.
A cock crows far down the valley.

The sleepy hillside. Such an abundance
of berries. Look at the silver trails
left by snails no larger than lemon-pips.
An orange butterfly drinks from a golden flower.

The Camellias

 At the crest of a bare tree whose branches
twist against the sky, a bird sings:
and at its foot camellias bush, evergreen, glossy-leaved

 shading the man who is pacing the earth path among them
silent, his coat whispering his grief.
The camellias put out flowers to console him -

 the white ones too soon - they are tipped tea-brown
by the frost - and then the others,
fat cups of pale to deep pink, petals orderly

the fullness of them weighing down the twigs;
long stamens like tongues tipped with yellow
tasting the transitoriness, the cool air.


Vignettes from the Late Ming
is on a low shelf in Foyles.
I sit on the floor, turn the pages
and float off to a peach orchard
where an old man brings jugs of wine
to writers who perch like birds in the branches
within scented clouds of pink blossom.
I drift home on the train in a painted boat
at sunset across a calm lake.

My stepmother dies
the dog gets bitten by an adder
my husband frets over his tax form three weekends in a row.

Under the weight of the rain the wisteria
sheds its petals in drifts on the path
the lilac flecks the windscreen with florets.

All evening I have been searching the house.
The Vignettes is so thin
Iím afraid I have thrown it out.



Singing for Mr Bear front cover