Archives for posts with tag: flowers
Aster yomena yomena02

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. by No machine-readable author provided. Keisotyo assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. No endorsement of BeadedQuill’s work by this author should be implied.

Plant asters by autumn

When all else fades,
semi-trailing heath comes
into its own. In banks and borders

snow-petalled asters make a
brilliant ground cover. Shimmering
their heads: a butterfly magnet
in the wildlife garden’s

banks and borders. Plant this by autumn,
plant this great choice in height and spread
before the winter turns.


I spend the occasional sunny, bright afternoons sitting on a plastic chair in the backyard staring at the hanging roses, pink hydrangeas and purple foxgloves. I am no gardener at present, and do nothing in this patch of yard in the house where I lodge. When I was a child, I first had a corner bed in which grew a pink hibiscus bush. Later I had a patch of soil next to my wendyhouse in the back garden and as a pre-teen I changed the flowering contents of a box outside my bedroom window. Since living the rented room life, I have dabbled with the usual supermarket herbs in pots and seasonal indoor bulbs. Currently, I am nursing an Ikea spathiphyllum that moves from the chest of drawers next to my bed to the sun-catching shelf on the other side of my room. It really needs a dose of plant food and would probably benefit from re-potting.

I love spending time in green spaces, surrounded by plants, and sometimes I find myself drawn to glossy, coffee-table garden books in bookshops or the gardening pages of home magazines. Yesterday I was leafing through the Guardian Weekend and stumbled across the gardening pages and started reading the “What to do the week” section. The advice covered Thin this, Read this, Plant this; reduce clusters of fruit on your trees, read up about 101 chillies and consider planting asters in time for autumn.

Today’s resulting poem is drawn from the column and echoes another poem, “look – really look”. This poem of two years ago (and uncannily this very time of year) was also inspired by the Guardian Weekend’s gardening pages. The relationship between gardening, seasons and plants holds a deep mystery for me. Birds, and especially butterflies, are for me symbolic messengers from another realm. My paternal grandmother was a botanist and her interest in the flowering world seemed to be the science and beauty. My interest is the beauty and lessons it offers about our human flurries.

It is no coincidence that garden banks and border feature in today’s poem during these times when both national and economic security are under pressure in many parts of the world. There is something of ‘the lilies of the valley in all their beauty’ about the delicate snow-petalled asters. Yet, as they trail like other determined ground-covers, they may prove the surviving, life-continuing film when the monuments of mankind have faltered. There are seasons of all kinds, both in the natural world and in our rhythm as humanity. Perhaps planting star-like flowers is not such a bad task to consider before autumn. As three of my favourite lines from “look – really look” remind us:

Concrete is brutal.
It needs softening.
Plants should have dominion.

Congratulations Balloon Image

ScrapsYard.com | Congratulations | Forward this Picture

Here is another short story completed for the exercise of completion. This tale developed in response to a balloon in a florist’s van.
I’m also love to hear your ideas for story prompts. Please share them with me by dropping a line below.

Hand-tie

Harry arrives at 11am to pack the orders for afternoon delivery. His daughter, Sam, now owns and runs the florist’s shop, but he still goes in Monday to Saturday to fill the van with hand-ties and bouquets. It gives him a reason to be out and about during the week and handing over people’s greetings and wishes have always been his favourite part of working in the business. The daily deliveries allow him to still be part of this.

It is a Thursday morning like many others, with the exception that this promises to be the first warm day when spring turns toward summer.

Sam puts down the ‘phone.
“Liz, we have an add an extra hand-tie plus balloon order for late-morning delivery. Do you have time, or should I arrange it?” The ‘phone rings again. At the same moment a customer steps in with a pot of ornamental tomatoes from the display outside.

“Seraphine’s Flowers. How may I help?” Sam answers the ‘phone and smiles in acknowledgement at the customer. At that moment, Liz steps forward from the arranging counter to handle the plant sale. In a day there would be long lulls and then a cluster of requests and sales would occur at once. Between 9.30 and 10am is one such busy time.

The customer leaves with her ornamental tomato wrapped in bright red paper and tied with raffia. Liz turns back to the arranging counter. Sam tears off the receipt for the card sale over the ‘phone.

Liz picks up on their interrupted conversation, “The hand-tie. I can do it.”
“Thank you. And I’ll start this new order.”

They have three new arrangements to prepare, and two from the day before are waiting in the cool back room. When the weather is cooler they line the bouquets at the shop front, where they serve the double purpose of sales temptation and decoration. But the temperatures have been rising this week and last night they set the arrangements under a shelf in the back to keep them fresh. No-one wants to receive wilted, half-dead flowers.

“Hello, hello.” Harry saunters in, jangling his keys and sipping on his take-away coffee from the chain next door, “How many and where are we going today?”
Sam looks over the clipboard, “Two for Terra’s, two residential and an office delivery, Staffield.”
“Let’s get ’em packed in.”
He starts by carrying the first of the two back-room arrangements to Seraphine’s van. Harry’s seasoned. He started here when his mother, Seraphine, opened the store. He knows not to risk carrying arrangements by the strings of the colourful brand-name paper bags. In his early days delivering, he had done so. It only took two or three tumbles of carnations, roses and tulips across the shop floor before he realised the danger of seeming convenience. Carrying two or three arrangements also seems another convenience. Usually two is do-able, but three – again, hardly worth the risk, both of stock and in terms of the time it would take to re-do the bouquet. With great care, he carried the second bunch from the back-room. Sam and Liz bring the other flowers through.
“If that’s it, I’m off.”
“Take care, Dad.” Sam calls out to him.
“I will. And bye Liz. See you tomorrow. ”

Harry has until 3pm to deliver the flowers. That is the goal he sets himself and he usually manages it with ease. If the orders are local and there is someone to sign for each, he can complete the day’s route by lunchtime. He estimates that today might take a little longer. With the roadworks near the hospital, he may be caught up for an extra half-an hour at least.

In the roadworks traffic, Harry entertains himself by tapping on his steering wheel to the radio. The signal changes. He needs to move into the far left lane. And from there he will turn right into Terra Hospital’s parking area. Check, indicate, check, prepare to change lanes. Harry thinks about lunch waiting at home and a gentle round of golf he might enjoy on this sunny afternoon.

Almost everybody in the city is distracted by the warm, clear weather. The driver in the lane alongside Harry receives a text, ‘Beautiful sunny day. All good.’

Playing the messenger had always been Harry’s favourite part of the business. Doing the deliveries still gave him great pleasure, which is why Sam had not employed someone else. She loved seeing her Dad every day and he enjoyed being connected to shop.

Today promises to be the when spring finally thaws. The ‘phone rings. Sam answers, “Seraphine’s Flowers. Good morning.”

“One pretty pink hand-tie, plus a matching balloon to be delivered to Terra’s Hospital Maternity Ward. We’ll have it delivered early this afternoon. Our pleasure.” Sam turns to her assistant, Liz.

The driver in the lane alongside Harry receives a text, ‘Beautiful sunny day. All good.’ He decides to reply to the text; loses attention for a split second. The car catches the florist van’s sliding door and plunges into the flower arrangements. The helium-balloon detaches from the pretty pink hand-tie and floats off over Terra Hospital, taking CONGRATULATIONS into the sky. On impact, Harry’s body suffers such shock that he has a heart attack.

Ursus arctos - Norway

Image courtesy of  Taral Jansen/Soldatnytt [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

January brought with it a blizzard.
Icy darts aimed for our knees
and the testing froze our sense
of belonging to that land.

The old bears sunk deeper in their caves,
groaned and turned their backs
on winter’s sluice
trusting that in time from it
would flow all the blooms of spring.

31/12/14

I wish to take this moment to applaud myself. Here, and in time for the end of 2014, I present my 200th poem for public consumption. (If you’d like to read them, there are 180+ poems available on this blog and another 20 poems in my book, Shining in Brightness.)

The threads of inspiration in today’s poem include a line about spring flowers in The Diary of Anne Frank, a childhood conversation about sluices with my Dad and watching Paddington (the movie) yesterday. There’s probably also a trace of my recent read, Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!

I shall make no secret of the fact that over these last few weeks I have found myself in a writer’s fug – and questioning my overall productivity. This surely stems from the seasonal tendency to review the year. Where is the novel I planned to write in 2014? What about all the poems I was going to submit to Proper Poetry Journals? When would I ever start earning any money from my writing (Indeed, when would I again start earning some Proper Grownup Money in general)? I am so, so, so tired. And it feels like I have been in this place (this winter?) for a very long time. It sometimes feels like this is the place people identify as ‘being an adult.’

When I was a child, my animal guide (or familiar) was undoubtedly the bear. In addition to my beloved teddy Edwina, who went to hospital with me and for years was carried all over the world as a security blanket, I collected figurines, books and anything teddy bear related. It was through this interest that I channeled my early writing. For over five years I compiled a monthly teddy-themed magazine.

It doesn’t surprise me, as I do a little cursory reading, that to call on the bear totem invokes grounding and strength. Since bears live a solitary life, they are examples of balance and comfort in one’s solitude. As expert survivors of harsh winters, theirs is an example of a wise animal-guide teacher. They are also associated with women of shamanic power who are able to communicate with other dimensions and pursue healing of self or others. The teddy bears of my past in no small way are the bears in this verse.

Finally, I must add that this poem was born of a prompt to “write about a heart that wouldn’t quit”.

2015, here we come
with our hearts that haven’t yet quit (even though they are a little tired).

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Anthurium at lalbagh flower show 7109

Anthuriums from Lalbagh Garden, Bangalore by Rameshng (own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


This greeting comes cold from the residue
of morning, 3rd October. Last draff of coffee
in the cup on a saucer that would rather be
the stippled salver that serves red
to passersby and those who scan
the street for things to watch
and then behold anthuriums
for sale at the florist.

“Paris”
2014


On relocating to London, I jettisoned my personal library. Since then I have forbad myself from spending on books. As far as possible I beg and borrow. On a few rare occasions I have caved – for Zadie Smith’s essays, Chinese poetry and a tome of Charles Bukowski poems, The Pleasures of the Damned (Canongate, 2010).

It started with ‘hell is a lonely place’ which punched me in the stomach. There in the bookshop I decided that I had to have the whole book, at £15.99. I didn’t care what else was in it. It turned out Bukowski is quite well known. I was a latecomer to his work.

Bukowski’s poem ‘the last generation’ introduces the literary scene of Paris in the 1920s, a time when writing “was a romantic grand game…, full of fury and discovery”. In short, “it was much easier to be a genius in the twenties”.

Part tongue-in-cheek (I’m guessing), the poem suggests:

.. if you sent your stuff postmarked from Paris
chance of publication became much better.
most writers bottomed their manuscripts with the
word “Paris” and the date.

I’ve paired this little joke with today’s prompt: “Write a poem in the form of a letter to someone”. I guess you, dear reader, are the someone.

I love writing letters, and the subject has featured in other poems:

In the unposted letter
It should not be polished
Pavement Writer
Things of the heart told in quiet

I have also written about Paris.


Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books

Fish_scales

Look At“, a poem posted this time last year, is a combination of a journal poem and a pavement poem. Derived from mental notes taken during a walk along East Finchley High Road, it documents the comings and goings of an ordinary morning.

Observing the ordinary and everyday is a recurring theme. “Look – really look” takes a similar approach, but places the entry within a specific season (summer) and circumscribes it to a smaller location (one man’s balcony garden).

Look At” is one of the 104 poems that feature in my latest book, In the Ocean.

The image of fish scales is courtesy of Wikicommons Media and photographed by Rajesh danji. View the original image here.

A Blow-fly (Calliphora, probably Calliphora vomitória). Photo by Jens Buurgaard Nielsen via Wikimedia Commons.

Soft to the thumb,
the pear I sliced
was gone.
It was rotten inside.

In a wither of ruffles
the rose-heads have browned
dry in the heat.
They sodden after it’s stormed.

Even the blowflies ferocious
have stopped their wings,
landed their green torpedoes
for the last time.

Something from lunch
churns in my stomach –

the rice, three days old?
the dhal, two days defrosted?
the sliver of cheese, too sweaty?
the coffee, a cup too many?

Now I, too, struggle 
to hold down this summer.

25/7/2014


At the moment in London, it is exceedingly warm during the day. Not that it doesn’t get hotter in other places, but here nothing is equipped for the heat. Flowers wilt, flies buzz themselves out, food perspires and no sooner have you laid it in the bowl, the fruit ripens. Even the broadband at the house has conked out.

So I shall have to venture to the library to post this poem and a few scheduled archive items. It was my plan to do so early, when the day was still cool from the night rains and the school holiday crowds hadn’t descended. But I went dancing last night… I too am not quite sure what to do with myself. This is not so much because of the heat. I am a born-and-bred Cape Town girl, after all. (In truth though, I – and my Medea hair – do struggle with the humidity.) My muse seems to be awol once again.

Perhaps my muse has also surrendered to this overdose of summer.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys 
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

March14 092

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A merry poem from the archive about summer’s sunny kisses.

Vintage postcard image courtesy of Postcard Diva.

Colias croceus – the Clouded Yellow Butterfly. Image courtesy of Zeynel Cebeci via Wikimedia Commons.

I will be 80 this year
here in my flat
only a mile and a half
from where I was born.
I have tried 
to lead by example, by
plunging my narrow balcony
into the principality of hanging gardens.

Concrete is brutal.
It needs softening.
Plants should have dominion.

We breakfast amidst the crisp verdure
and watch a nesting bird,
fledgling wrens, butterflies 
and such wild visitors.
The flat faces of the 
daisies, pansies and geraniums 
accrue the afternoon and evening sun.
Most years –
A wren nests somewhere
blanketed by the ivy leaves.
Her fledglings zing past 
while we’re eating.
They’ll even call 
on us at table.
In warm summers,
the clouded yellow butterfly 
may join us from abroad.


Sometimes some quirky combination of words and images will capture my imagination. This time last year it was a comment in a Gudrun Sjödén catalogue about a Senegalese artist who sculpted birds from flotsam-and-jetsam.

Sunday last, the Guardian Weekend’s column “How does your garden grow?” hooked me. William Howard’s evocative interview about his balcony garden in the Barbican (London) – and the fantastic photograph of him in from of his verdant kingdom – had me enthralled. (Read the interview from the 28th June 2014 Guardian Weekend here.). “This garden,” explains Howard, “is about memories, sharing and reminding people to look – really look.”

Perhaps being a poet is in some respects like being a gardener.

(P.S. One of the most affecting books I read during my young adolescence was Rumer Godden’s An Episode of Sparrows, in which a scrabble of children try to grow a garden and learn how to look – really look.)

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Don’t waste the joy of new places on absent sources of heartache. Don’t Waste Paris on a Broken Heart.

Image

The poet wants
new curtains, please.
Yellow and white, in a gingham print
of medium squares; lined in white cotton. The light 
will stream through across the room
and catch the duvet on the bed in a stroke of 
sunny warmth,
The poet wants
new curtains, please.
New ones that don’t 
slump from hooks 
that snapped long before
the poet moved into this little rented room.

The poet wants 
a clean carpet. One without
an encroaching margin of
London grime
which the bristled hoover 
only tickles each week.
The poet would prefer
poetry to flutter down 
as easily as blossom-petal confetti
spread pink on the pavement 
near Summerlee Avenue.

The poet wants
more travel and 
less frozen broccoli. 


At the beginning of April, the spring bloom, preluded by daffodils, was joined by red tulips, forget-me-nots and bouffant trees in blossom. With the sunnier days, the return of nature’s colour and the chatty birds, I started to feel restless. It was time to shed the cabin-time of winter. Some have been turning soil in their gardens. I have turned to cleaning out my rented room and allocated kitchen cupboards.

The food I was eating annoyed me. I was sick of my neighbourhood. Trying to write the last poems for the 102 project was an irritation. Above all, I developed an intense dislike of the curtains in my rented room.

I have yet to solve the curtain situation. A few charity shop visits and the occasional Freecycle search have not yet yielded any finds. In the interim, there’s a flowering Easter cactus on the chest of drawers next to my bed. And I have done away with the dust-covered, wicker light-shade that cast a strange cross-hatch shadow over the walls at night. My new shade looks like a large, light-emitting pink macaroon. Delicious!


Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness