Remembering Swans

The bank and the ditch are all whiteness, frondiness,
still abundant, exuberant, diverse.
What would she feel? – an old woman, one day,
reaching for her out-of-date flower-book,
seeing little then in meagre hedgerows
to match the picture? She might mutter
a litany, “Hedge-parsley, wild carrot, chervil”,
remembering delicate distinctions. She’d become
a friend to the ground-elder, even, that elegant pest.

Through the gate there’s a glitter and sombreness
of water – an old village reservoir, twin lakes,
tree-shaded; broken bridge; miniature dam.
Beyond, a field-path, untrodden, loses itself
on the way to the hills. A pair of swans
and five cygnets idle over the lake
to look at the stranger, and see me no threat.

One day at the water’s edge an old woman
may remember how whiteness shone up
from a perfect reflection; how the cob
snaked his sleek neck down to the pen
and touched her once with his beak. Silent lake,
lifeless, lacking for years those white presences;
on the shore an old woman, remembering swans.

from Time Being (Seren, 2009), © Ruth Bidgood 2009, used by permission of the author. Recording from Ruth Bidgood (2012) recorded by Simon Fraser, produced by Sam Cambria.

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