From the thistle’s mouth white
noise lifts. A caterpillar
painstakingly erases a leaf.
Lice taxi under the shell of a wasp,
a grub fingers in an apple.
What the slugs touch is sensational.
Things would pass by their names, but
these are in a language
as deep as puddle to the sky
where the sun makes imprecise
and willows sink in reflection.
Count a hoverfly as a bead
on an invisible abacus.
The cat trains its eyes on
the sealed waterdrop
and scratches with its tongue.
Dockseed rusts as the thistles
lower their spears. Nettles
are seedy and voluptuous,
and through the fence the pheasant
will still thrust its faience head,
a last jet-trail catching the sun.
SCRABBLE WITH MOTHER
Mum is lonely and daft. Her friends all died.
Her wooden scrabble tiles
are worn almost blank.
I’ve been playing with her
for 40 years, loosing
the string-sealed linen bag
letting my fingers find a letter
that starts a game like the one
about her first white hair that was
a small waterfall at dawn
which she asked me to
pull, I was in a high-chair at
that paper-piled dinner-table
beside dad’s pipe and typewriter
and pulling that hair has slowly un
ravelled us. The dark-loving bones
are factories: if each rib of me grew in
side her as she sat knitting
it must still suck from that amnion
even when I lost the milk-whites
of the morning. Each day she
is less, but never removed.
She is lost in her thoughts, also
in mine. In mind. Not out of it but
sunk too deep in whatever mind is.
That word’s cloudiness: not thought,
consciousness, nor brain, but suspended
in a mist of possible cognates, lost
cogs, cognition. The thorned branches
of that forest have overgrown the paths:
she finds it hard to see for instance which
way is home or what that even means.
Fruit flies rise from the melon-rind.
The bag is empty of letters. Distress
is memory’s mistress, so losing it is
not unkind. Our rows of uneven scores,
the ladders of words collapse, tip them back.
I kept the score, let her win. Last year she would.
‘Garden’ and ‘Scrabble with Mother’ by Giles Goodland received a special mention and high commendation respectively in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (February 2019) judged by Mandy Pannett