Sometimes I feel you at my breast,
warm against my skin, breathe in
that familiar milkiness as I kiss
the back of your neck. Or maybe we
are standing at the side of a street,
your hand in mine as I say look right,
look left, right again, then wait until
the green man walks before we cross.
Now there you go, flat out on your
first bike, yelling look at me, look at
me and we’re laughing with the joy
of it all. Did we call you Lucy, or
Cinders, shortening your name? Was
it to something ridiculous like Tiggy?
How quickly the years went by, how
soon it was your first day at school.
And all those boy friends, did we
approve, did we warn you about this
and that? Did you listen? None of the
above; you had gone by the time you
arrived, we had not even one brief hour
together, not one second, breath or
heart beat, just a first-last glimpse as
they took you away, limp, white, still.
A Gardener Reflects in the Duchesse’s Potager
Old Foubert leans for a moment on his spade, right hand
comfortably at ease on the elm handle palms have polished
smooth. With the other hand he rubs his back – lately it’s been
giving him grief. Not long now, he thinks, sighs, banishes
the thought, starts to dig again, turning over soil, tossing
stones and weeds aside to be dealt with later. Six long beds
stretch before him – by the time he reaches the last, the first
will need seeing to once more – but for now the lettuce bed
is cleared, twenty-four ruffled Merveille des Quatre Saisons
squat there in neat bronzed rows. He turns to the tomatoes,
tied to stakes like virgin martyrs, skins reddening in the sun,
giving off that peppery scent of summer and young girls.
When this lot’s finished, Foubert tells himself, I’ll take a rest,
but soon the sound of water splashing in a tank gets to him,
and he barely makes the compost heap to relieve himself
then settles under a spreading fig to unpack a waiting lunch.
Slowly he works through a half bottle of bordeaux, one Baguette
des Halles, sliced and slathered with Marie-Claire’s Rillettes
de Canard, a log of Bûche du Poitou. Perhaps forty winks, he
thinks, heigh ho, not as young as I was, but despite this, he’s
conscious of a faint aftertaste of guilt. Bless me Father, for I have
sinned – all those remembered childish misdeeds – petty thefts
from patisseries, lies, impure thoughts, immodest acts – and
now this sleep he’s about to steal, here in Madame’s potager.
Leaning against the tree, he looks back past rows of vegetables
to where roses cover the crumbling walls – not that he reckons
much to those brash scentless upstarts which she likes to gather
for her bowls and vases, no, give him the old-fashioned lovelies –
Petite Lisette, Belle de Crecy, Adelaide de Orleans, Reine des Violettes,
all blowsy with scent and promises, ah, now those are roses –
his eyes close – onions, beans, peas and artichokes can wait.
Angela Kirby grew up in rural Lancashire, but now lives in London. The author of five books on cooking, gardening and related subjects, her poems are widely published and broadcast. Much of her work has been translated into Romanian. In 1996 and 2001 she was the BBC’s Wildlife Poet of the Year. Shoestring Press published her four collections: Mr. Irresistible, 2005, Dirty Work, 2008, A Scent of Winter, 2013, and The Days After Always, New and Selected Poems, 2015. A fifth collection is under way.