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A Hundred Gourds 5:2 March 2016

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page 6  

Claire Everett – UK


Whiteout


Our walking year always began with snowdrops set like a trail of tea-lights in the mossy darkness to mark the time of the first splashes of ewe’s milk in the pail.

Then came the carpets of wood anemones, "smell fox!" he’d whisper, reminding me of their country name and the faint musk of the leaves, though I was fond of wind-flower, imagining them to be sown by Eurynome herself, who must have taken pleasure in watching them bloom the self-same colour of the heel that had tamped down the earth after the planting.

Before long the blackthorn would be in blossom even as its stems were bare. The nightingale might favour it for its nest and lucky is she who has watched the petals drifting through the sweetest song, but there are those who have known its strife, and borne the brunt of its staff, for the Mother of the glade is also the Crone.

Wild garlic! A chink in the larder, then lo and behold the culverts would explode with it and the slightest breeze, like the best sous-chef, would stir it into soft globs of buttery sunshine. Ravenous, we’d be glad then of the little picnic we’d made.

And with May came the hawthorn, fit for a queen, but woe betide the one who brings the crown into her home, for like as not Death will soon darken her doorstep.

On and on, yards of lacy cow parsley took me back to the doilied quiet of Grandma’s sitting room. Then the scent of Sweet Cicely would put me in mind of my one-time favourite: a quarter of sherbet with a liquorice stick ‘dab’. Of course, both were quite similar to hemlock and the forager must know the difference.

Ox-eyed daisies led us into the height of summer, watchful as ever whenever we passed by, for it is they who are guardians of the infants who never lived to see those fragrant lanes. And so we wandered the byways of the year until only the yarrow remained; brewed it would stave off melancholy, he said, and as a pillow it could conjure dreams of a future beloved.

But on days like this it is the little apple tree I remember best, and how he drew down the bough so that I could see how it was host for the mistletoe with its white, waxy berries that are poisonous to everything but the birds.

scent of snow
unable to recall
my father’s voice



*Haiku previously published in The Heron’s Nest, 14:3, September 2012

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