When the Almond Tree Comes into Flower
It's as if there is a skin that we inhabit,
like a bag of memories, all the assorted colours
of our dreams and our dilemmas,
our crew of followers, our warrior supporters,
a gang of indented labourers,
the grumbling ones who're forever
demonstrating and protesting,
a fractious mob who pull the plug
on all our best intentions; muttering dissent,
they pack and come with us as well.
Sometimes it's like a race, this travelling,
to see if one can leave before they've time
to file complaints.
But when we arrive, their turbulence,
and their rebellious postures can fall
strangely silent, something co-operative
gets to works inside this skin.
And that's when it begins.
That's when some energy of landscape,
birdsong, sunlight, reaches in and pulls you
out of who you thought you were.
Sometimes it can feel like
yesterday's discovery –
the first blossom of the almond tree.
As they say here in the Midi,
when the almond tree comes into flower,
you know that winter's truly gone.
In the park, leaves rustle, swifts call,
there’s a scent of woodsmoke –
the sinking sun splits a cloud
with light – that same light
that meets you, unexpected,
in some foreign place
when you are open to the shapes and scents,
open to the embrace of light
as you step off the tram at Matejki, say,
or Ostroroga –
this light finds you
and reminds you –
You do not say farewell,
even as your steps slow down, and the surfaces
of streets and tiles and roofs and door handles,
of glass façades and metal rails of balconies –
dazzle you with their reflected light
The estuary bird stood at the sea-edge
planted like a speckled shell
in front of swell of purple indigo,
watching the waves hiss ripple
just as the evening light began to fade.
Some twilight incantation?
Some prayer to rhythm?
Some desire to lose itself among
the frothy tips of waves, that rise, then sink,
and then draw back into the pull of night?
The water touched its toes then swirled away again.
There is something in the early evening, laggard light
that birds respond to, call to sometimes
as they move in clumps of swarming foliage,
dark lettering across the sky.
But I've not seen so intent a bird before,
at tide-edge, motionless, and gazing out to sea.
A rosy blush in evening sky scatters
lozenges of sickle pink over the water surface;
no sea-bird cry, just the sparks and dazzle
of mauve and murky pink sliding on waves,
and the single sea-bird, mesmerized by indigo.
Morelle Smith studied English and French Literature at Edinburgh University (a long time ago); writing and travelling have been the main themes in her life. She has had various jobs, many of them involving teaching adults – subjects have included French, English as a Second Language and Creative Writing. She has also been an aid worker in Albania.
These days Morelle focuses mainly on writing – poetry, travel articles, fiction and translation – and she has had various poems, stories, articles and books published. You can find more of Morelle's poems on these websites: Scottish PEN, mediterranean poetry and Ellen And Jim Have A Blog, Two. Her poems have been published in magazines such as Poetry Scotland, Poetry Cornwall, Poetry Monthly, New Writing Scotland, The Salmon, Crannog, and Chapman, and in anthologies such as Scottish Literature in the 20th Century and Anthology of Scottish Women Poets. Some of her poems have been translated into French, Albanian, Romanian and Bulgarian. Morelle's blog on writing and travel is rivertrain.
Poetry Collections: Deepwater Terminal (Diehard Publishers, 1998); The Way Words Travel (UK Authors Press, 2005); The Ravens and the Lemon Tree (Diehard, 2008) and Gold Tracks, Fallen Fruit (Cestrian Press, 2011).