Five New Poems by Julith Jedamus

Loosestrife

 

High summer. River on the flood,

bringing news of the sea. Tides

blur the river’s cursives, carry

gulls and bottles upstream, ferry

messages of fresh destruction,

tidings for a land weighed down by its own

fecundity.  Cormorants sway in muddy

currants, dive for eels or pearls as I

count the seconds of their drowning: trees

(or bodies) float past, heads (or buoys)

glide by—until they reappear,

in pairs, sleek with oil or water,

beaks aimed upstream. Safe in my lair,

hidden by sprays of ash and alder,

I breathe lost scents of may and mother-die

and lie in wait for the longest day as high

clouds pass, dragging shadows heavy

as gunmetal. If I could be free

as loosestrife, the violet paradox

that waves beside me, its lax

habits and rampant ways pleasing to all

but the ecologist, who sees its purple

crowds and thinks ‘invasion.’ Yet I,

like the butterfly, am prone to suasion, and comply

when beauty’s argued. I sway on its red

stems, which rise above the flood,

offering admirals and strays

refuge and temporary grace.

 

 

 

***

 

 

Heron Tree

 

Widespread plane, whose limbs hold

seven nests, I recall your April liveliness,

when errand seekers launch themselves

on quiet wings and return to audible clamour . . .

Down falls through tiers of branches

and settles on bramble or bracken: a sign

that life’s within, that the wheel still turns.

 

Autumn burns. Ivy steals the colour

from red skies, the mouth fills with smoke,

the mind searches for lost herons, grasps

the memory of their flight: the graceful

stretch of feet toward mirrored water, the quiet

splash as wings fold and settle, the swivel

of neck and beak, the inhuman questing.

 

An east wind rises. Light retreats

by stealth. Leaves fall, scatter the last

news of summer: letters kept

in a drawer of days, swept by the mind

into yellow heaps stolen from myth

and fairy tale. I spread them with weak hands,

lie all night on their negligible weight.

 

First light. Spring tides

cancel sandbar and shore, devour

path and footprint as the Thames glides

westward, bringing news of the sea,

threatening to drown my fragile home

while high above me herons watch, eyes

uncompromised by wonder or pity.

 

 

***

 

 

Buddleia

 

Standing by road and railway,

you flaunt your modesty, wave

dirty handkerchiefs at bankers

and brides. From Clapham to Vauxhall

you spring from gritty soil, gay

flaneur leaning on gantries,

dusty beggar glad for a candy wrapper

or a half-smoked fag. Dressed in drag,

provoked by breezes, you display mauve

tapers to rent-boys and engineers.

I’m inclined to invite you on board,

to watch you sway in a first-class window,

to feel your grey-green leaves brush

my shoulder. Rough sleeper, busker with a sore

throat and a stash of coins, I’d sow

your seeds from St Ives to Dundee; I’d talk up

your qualities to pets and ticket inspectors.

On summer dawns, when the moon cools

fell and fen, I’d stroke your stems as you exhale

dreams and oxygen. Bold dissenter,

wayward cousin prized by butterflies,

lean this way and whisper the secret

of your rebellious grace.

 

 

***

 

 

Second Bloom

 

Long after the first flush,

when purple racemes hung

from bare bines in April,

declaring spring in Chinese characters,

your wisteria bloomed a second time,

less profusely but twice as welcome,

coming after long confinements

personal and general, hiding

its fragrant blossoms in groves

of pinnate leaves held high by human stems

twining counterclockwise,

wrists and arms aged by sun and weather.

 

Second blooms, second chances,

second weddings and waves:

joy and misfortune intertwine

as stars wheel over the Thames

and constellations made invisible

by the sun describe their arcs—

Gemini preceding Cancer,

Cancer following. Tendrils sway

in morning breezes; light grows.

At seven, by The Dove, we saw

two swimmers enter the river,

towing two orange buoys behind them.

 

 

***

 

 

Wind

 

Wind’s insinuations

are clear to cheek and ear;

it grazes faces, invites

closed eyes to hear

its green interpreters:

beech’s rustle, willow’s

pour, the sharp sail-

snap of plane and sycamore.

 

Even here, where brick

and glass enforce our isolation,

wind’s persistent, cunning

as contagion. On cold

spring mornings, it seeks gaps

and cracks, finds weaknesses,

drives its icy message

through panes and bones.

 

Before, in the unlocked

world, wind kept its distance,

masked by traffic and planes.

But now, in this new silence,

wind fills interminable days,

vies with fear as our prime

diversion and occupation.

Who ever had the time

 

to watch hawks riding

thermals, or see wind’s

lacy authority sketched

on lakes and rivers? Hours

are spent listening to taps

and rattlings, supernatural

comings and goings that tell

of wind’s internal weather . . .

 

When we row, wind

lurks in your corner, knocks

me over as others cheer:

unseen enemies, neighbours

who are far from fair-minded.

I pick myself up, howl

like a hurricane. My mind

is synonymous with wind.

 

 

 

***

 

 

A novelist, poet and editor, Julith Jedamus was born in Colorado and has lived in London for the past 26 years. Her collection The Swerve was published by Carcanet in 2012.

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Ann Robinsonreply
September 15, 2021 at 11:57 pm

What beautiful and elegant poems. I live in California and am grateful to see a different kind of verve.

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