When I started out as a writer when I was about fifteen I wanted to be a nature poet - and everything else just got in the way - issues of identity and gender and politics and all that. And now at the grand old age of forty I'm beginning to think hard again about what the ecologists are telling us and about what is our rightful relationship with the natural world. This poem's called 'Pipistrelles'.


In the centre of the sheep-field
a stand of Douglas firs
hold between them, tenderly,
a tall enclosure, like a vase.

How could we have missed it
before today – just never seen
this clear, translucent vessel
tinted like citrine?

What we noticed were pipistrelles:
cinder-like, friable; flickering
the place hained by trees
till the air seemed to quicken,

and the bats were a single
edgy intelligence, testing an idea
for a new form,
which unfolded, cohered

before our eyes. The world’s
mind is such interstices; cells
charging with cool dawn light;
– is that what they were telling us?

– but they vanished, suddenly,
before we’d understood,
and the trees grew in a circle,
elegant and mute.

from The Tree House (Picador, 2004), copyright © Kathleen Jamie 2004, used by permission of the author and Macmillan Publishers

Kathleen Jamie in the Poetry Store

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