Working on Forty Three – a new collection of poetry

As a follow-up to Thirty Eight, I’m now working on a new collection called Forty Three. The idea is to publish a collection every 5 years which describes my changing perspective, what’s happening to my view, my family, my environment. I feel that my lens will widen over time. Thirty Eight was necessarily – and therapeutically – introspective: processing the full implications of my father’s young death, learning to be a father myself, our family quest for a home in the country, settling down, seeing out the Great Recession.

43 looks around me, focusing on our garden, and using it as a metaphor for time passing, and its role as a space nurturing our family, which we nurture back. I am writing a series of poems which track the garden as it changes through the four seasons, and explores how I and my family use it – as a source of food, a place for games and fun, an environment to influence and impress ourselves upon. I am interested in how we use these spaces reflects us and our ambitions and outlook. Also how a garden provides a buffer against the wider world, and how one sees a garden as a refuge, and a platform for exploration. What lies over the hedge, or through the garden gate?

Here’s a poem (work in progress) which is currently called December:

A night burst of inter-galactic loving

has rinded the garden white,

our lawn a west country landing

for moon beams,

spent kisses iron in our lawn.

Through my study window

I watch my boys’ garden play, their

joy pricked by the morning’s cold blade,

What better way than football

to crack this white morning?

They are visible, then gone.

And back, noise first, they

maul, merge and pull apart,

one boy hoofs the ball

and the lawn is empty.

My daughter arrives, chasing the dog,

which chases the boys who chase the ball;

the silly girl hooting, already the action is drawing off,

she is treading home down icy steps

and my heart is lost to her.

Her brothers stop to conspire,

witness to something amusing;

their low gravity of the same opinion.

They snigger,

and at that moment

new planetary developments flare

sun rays against the trees,

the garden catches fire,

and my boys

shine gold.

One gilded youth shoves the other,

he shoves back, and they take off.

The fire is doused, the lawn dulls to ice

and I am alone, watching nothing,

imagining what comes next for them:

clowning and hulking on into

men with full hands

and world-rounded faces

until their own loads turn them grey,

and mine kills me.

The boys reappear, booting their elder selves

into the garden of their father’s imagination.

They wear coats which flap like great wings.

‘They refuse to zip their coats!’ laughs their mother

suddenly behind me, offloading her gritted teeth.

This is what I mean by the stage of our lives:

in this garden we will watch our children come and go,

rising as slowly we fade.

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