Hardcore Pastorals: Poems by Rebecca Hawkes

By | 31 October 2021

Noonday gorsebloom

walking the working dogs as an excuse
to spend the afternoon skinny dipping
in a slow braid of the river its radiant summer-snowmelt blue
a delicious chill that stops her breath a little

the water so clean it thrives with wriggling nymphs
stoneflies and caddis larvae and the farmer’s daughter
basking in the sweat of the glacier her new limbs a half-submerged star
staring back to the sky and spitting a fountain from chapped lips

the crop-dusting plane overhead an off-white whine through distant ozone
while the huntaways have gone off after riverbed rabbits
and the willows and gorse all sizzle with cicadas
and pollinators and crisping seedheads until all the valley’s music turns

muted and bluish thrummed over by her own insistent heartbeat
when she sinks to walk her hands along the riverbed
all her low sunken mounds stirring sediment
her body a sunken ship crowded with desperate ancestors

her wreckage draped with sun-slung nets of caustic light
her hair swept about like a halo of gilded didymo
a gleaming naiad moment ruptured by the pack of dogs
plunging in to save the mistress they see drowning

scrabbling blithe claws that raise ruddy
welts on her softened skin their clumsy strokes
crosshatching homemade scars the numbness
of cold giving way to streaks of hot lightning

and she cannot explain to the dogs the concept of held breath
their open mouths panting in her face
fragranced with sampled sheep shit and carrion
but the only way to get out of the mongrels’ frenzy is to swim

to the shore and sit with them shivering as they
shake off their pride in salvation
so she’s soaked in stinging stinking dog-water
slapping her legs instead of the sandflies

although the flighty vampires suckling so obscenely
are the only creatures that really belong in this scene
not the dogs or the willows or the girl
or the gorse with its raptures of yellow

that invasive stellation annexing the slopes
to wrestle black beech at the bush boundary
the smells of pollinated combat mingling by the water
sultry as marzipan and honeydew casting a heady spell

over the colonised valley the weeds like her very presence here
a legacy of other people’s blood and money
though she has yet to understand this history is her own
still finding a place in her bones let alone the land

this scenery just the dappled background where she tried to leave
the body that dragged her back
and back to the world of growing things
with its own ferocious motives

still hardy like her brute inheritance that ancestral flower
named furze or whin or ulex or bloody goddamned gorse
she can be cut back and burned and still put up her tender shoots
her millions of gilded petals her seedpods cracking

shotgun blasts of life like joyous profanities
like defiant blessings like
what is this world I’m blooming into
and how might I destroy it

This entry was posted in CHAPBOOKS and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Related work:

Comments are closed.