Poetry: Willow, Willow-herb, and Meadowsweet by Ian C Smith

Willow, Willow-herb, and Meadowsweet

To breathe early autumn’s heady air, or form new sentences, smell her heavy fall of brown hair, typified joie de vivre then; instead, this tracing of damasked memory now to ward off chagrin.  Her camera once fixed me in time arriving back from my habitual fitness run below our nook of rented accommodation atop this mansion I now read, deep in the night, was bought by the U.K.’s biggest lottery winner, updated grandly of course.
My screen displaying where, that glorious colour, I am stricken by when.  In what was the vibrant, albeit frugal, present, our Upstairs/Downstairs situation inverted, we ascended to our freezing bower where we bathed in several inches of hot water in an ancient iron bathtub, maps of travels blue-tacked to our damp walls where, on hushed evenings, we read by lamplight.  My selfish literary flowering etched in anticipation centred on language I remember with gratitude after the long steady dying since.
Our first bus trip for shopping, its route winding in wan light through golden villages of stone, hedgerows hemming narrow roads, was studded with stops for women wearing hats who carried baskets, and elderly couples sticking together, seats, space, filling with a soft cidery accent.  Spotting gipsy caravans before reaching Moreton-in-Marsh we whispered hotly.  At the centuries-old market I read news of a coalminers’ strike, violent unrest in poorer areas we would discover later.
In winter, fields of frost below our perch as white as old bones, shucking the duvet on runny nose mornings to fill pages instead of slouching off to work as I had since I was thirteen, I didn’t know Adlestrop station slept nearby, had not discovered Edward Thomas’s Arcadian poem written after forming his friendship with Robert Frost.  My dream world manifested, rain, wind, often rattling the windows, ruffling rooks high, like us, above sheltering horses, quickened me.  I also fell for genealogy’s allure, tracing my scarred English ancestry.
A borrowed gas heater on castors I kept close, decorating it with an Olympic pattern of coffee mug rings, needed while she exercised hunters across icy ground, her antipodean dream, I turned whimsy into typed pages.  At winter’s end, by then past Orwell’s year of dire prediction, we travelled on, seeking adventure, time stalking us, criss-crossing latitude’s and longitude’s grid toting my precious archive, backpacked hard copy, and memories.
After many years away I idly imagine being buried near our village Norman church where monks might have fashioned letters with intricate care, sere leaves curled ankle-deep in old thickets as if in pain.  When we tramped nature’s wildflower ways, stepping over stiles, the song-thrush’s repetition had sound-tracked my reveries, that place, time, borne through adversity since, buttressing my extravagant personal myth.
I wonder about her reaction to my internet find when she visits.  For a time-traveller joke, I squeeze into my navy pea-jacket worn those years ago.  It feels heavy, neglected, out of synch with today’s gear.  I finger-fiddle a never used spare button in its silken pocket, conjure past voices.  This indulgence of recall; smell, sight, and sound, lures me like a secret love.  From that attic window, transposed, unscathed by the scourge of age, in a fierce fever, breath fogging the future we cannot know, I gaze once more at what shall be lost, therefore precious.
We shared a Cotswold attic, damp, bare,
the ravenous future drawing near.
Home from work, she bounded up our stair.
We shared a Cotswold attic, damp, bare,
blared foxhunt horn, hounds’ cries, in the air.
I traced forebears’ lives, year upon year.
We shared a Cotswold attic, damp, bare,
the ravenous future drawing near.

Ian C Smith’s work has been published in Antipodes, BBC Radio 4 Sounds,The Dalhousie Review, Griffith Review, San Pedro River Review , Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.