Retired teacher Beth Brooke was born in the Middle East, where she did important parts of her growing. She now lives on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast: its landscapes seeping into her writing. Beth's debut collection, A Landscape With Birds, will be published by The Hedgehog Press in 2022.
Man and Bird
Ink on paper preparatory work for
the Unknown Political Prisoner (1953)
'Speak to me,' says the crow,
'give me your story.
Tell the roots and branches
of where you chose to roost
and build your nest.'
The man settles the crow upon his chest,
the needle prick of its claws
a small discomfort
in exchange for company,
for the richness of the crow’s attention.
'I come,' he says, 'from the scent of the sea.
I was seeded by the ocean
in the valleys between chalk hills.
'In autumn the hawthorns
of the inland slopes
are bent by salt breezes
and heavy with berries,
against the blasts of winter.
They were my roost.'
'I will go there,' says the crow,
'I will gather berries for you.
The scent of the sea will be on them.
It will comfort you.'
I have begun to inspect
the edges of myself,
I notice that I bruise more easily
than when I was young.
I catalogue this,
and the creases just beginning
to be visible around my mouth.
I think of my mother’s skin
fragile as tissue paper;
the slightest move tears it,
lets mortality in.
The Taste of Summer
In childhood I ride the hill,
stand on the pedals, propel myself
to the top,
throw down the bike,
and flop exultant under a peach-fat sun.
It hangs ripe in an endless sky
heavy with the scent of August.
I reach up, plunge my hands
wrist-deep into summer's flesh;
gouge out the fruit,
cram my mouth, eat
until I am nectar-drunk with joy.
In childhood, chin and fingers sticky
with summer juice,
I ride down the hill.
Legs stretched out above the pedals,
I shake with laughter.
I am eight years old and I can eat the sun.