Saunders A – Anna Saunders

3 excellent poems from the forthcoming collection Fever Few, which will be reviewed here in impspired when it is published

 Is this the ebb, or flow?
 We are manacled in green
 the grass like an anchor, holding us to the earth
 new buds on the magnolias break through
 as the blossom sheds itself like skin cells. 
 The moment is born, the moment dies, simultaneously.
 How is it that late in life, even after losses,  
 the moment sings, symphonic.
 Like the time we watched the song thrush 
 every speckle on its tiny chest as vivid
 and electric as a mark by an Expressionist.
 And then the blackbird, glossy and wet-ink black 
 pulling a worm out of the lawn
 as if plucking a thread from the gleaming fabric of the day.
 Sometimes the age feels apocalyptic
 sometimes it feels as if we have just begun. 
 Like on that early autumn evening 
 when we stood with the waters around our toes
 a warm, glinting baptism, engulfing us 
 and wondered, is the sea going out, or just coming in?
 This wave,
 these glinting luminous waters,
 is this the ebb, or flow?
For so long I have been wanting to write about
my mother’s garden 
 but halleluiah is hard, elegy is easier 
 and the poems keep chanting blue 
 yet when she tells me that the next time I visit 
 I can help her buy a bird feeder 
 all the gold and greens intone 
 immediately, and her spirit-
 the lofty, lolling over foxgloves of it
 the buttercup peppered lawn of it 
 the nettles, the nicotiana, the single sunflower of it,
 blossom and bloom and the page resonates 
 with a hymn of nettle leaf, poppy stalk, silken nap of rose
 and I am there with her choosing a contraption for the birds
 talking about how it will root into the earth 
 how it will reach, bough like, above the wall 
 so the cats can’t paw down their prey 
 and how she will hang cylinders from it, like lanterns, 
 full of grain, and the goldfinches will come down
 from the sky, yellow patched angels, eating the heart
 of the seeds, and then, another leap forward
 and here I am here writing this poem 
 singing halleluiah with the small choir of the heart 
 in the cool, white church that is this page.  
 Leda, by the River
 What was born of it was half holy  
 though it hurt
 when the cumulus cloud of feather
 came down, beaked and biting,  
 webbed feet like black fans slapping,
 which of them was Leda, which was the swan? 
 So many sons and daughters of Cygnus 
 that first time they walked by the water 
 nestled heads forming hearts, 
 their roped necks arching like iced 
 bridges glinting with snow.  
 Countless swans reiterating the story
 of the winged and rapacious lover, 
 one for each night they had perhaps. 
 The canopy
 of silken white, the reaching beak – gold 
 and brutal, a sky-born ecstasy of pain.
 The beating against their face,  
 the sky falling in feathers   
 as they offered themselves up to it again and again.
 You are offering to lend me some money
 when we see the young heron in the park.
 From behind it resembles a sprouting bulb
 with its long stem of neck.
 It reminds me of the tulips dad planted 
 so we’d have colour after he had gone.
 The heron sits on the rock in front of us, 
 and when a bulldog swaggers past, 
 paws scuffing the ground like knuckles,
 you gasp. 
 Having no fear is dangerous round here 
 and the heron seems unsteady when it walks,
 has no idea how to hunt.  
 It is perched on a lump of plastic 
 that it seems to have mistaken for a rock
 and it belly flops into the water,
 comes out empty mouthed. 
 We both know you can’t make a living 
 from building poems.
 That thing it’s standing on isn’t even real.
 Mum, you have your purse out again,
 and that worried frown that dad used to have 
 when he was looking at the tulip bulbs,
 wondering if they would come out in time. 

Anna Saunders is the author of Communion, (Wild Conversations Press), Struck, (Pindrop Press) Kissing the She Bear, (Wild Conversations Press), Burne Jones and the Fox ( Indigo Dreams) Ghosting for Beginners ( Indigo Dreams), and the forthcoming Feverfew. ( Due Indigo Dreams Summer 2020). Anna is the CEO and founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival. She has been described as ‘a poet who surely can do anything’ by The North and ‘a poet of quite remarkable gifts’ by Bernard O’Donoghue. 


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