Wild Garlic, and other poems

Wild Garlic

Thirty pairs of hockey boots, the schluck
of April woodland mud, cherry blue
aertex, navy nylon knickers, hot new
breath from thirty pairs of budlike lungs.

Later, in the bees waxdorms, we’ll shun
those girls with their first sweet stains
as though they carry all our shame
by proxy. But for now how fast we run

for victory: the first to touch the Scots Pines
cresting Chinaman’s – theway, one day
we’ll race with favourite Sedbergh boys,
cigarettes and secrets hidden in waistbands.

Yet for now oblivious to our mud-slick thighs,
to that first scent of garlic, growing wild.

The Lie
(for my brother)

Remember that day you guided us
around and around
the green of our garden –
the bees sharp and bright,
the apple trees heavy?

You were restless, remember,
gait jagged, face salty.

told us you had surprise,
magical moon-mirror you’d found 
portal into different world
(away from 
the shattering glass,
the roar of her brandy).
my sister and followed, like bullets,
chattering with hope.

 “Our girls enjoy state of the art science laboratories”

This is how it’s meant to be, what I’ve dreamed
through all that fiction (the midnight feasts,
lacrosse, theromantic friendships, even) –
downpast the churchyard and playingfields
in these rooms lined with words like chlorophyll
and always sunlit, refractions through the heart
shapes of fragile glass flasks, a charcoal smell
of burnt tapers, the periodic table to fill my throat.

This is where I know to wear my hair in ribbons
the same blue as my labcoat, and sit polished
goggles above my nose. Here, beyond the hissing
Bunsen, in these lines of wrote black cursive,
I understand not the science but the meaning
of convergence and find truth in that, at least.


In the Horniman’s natural history room, I'm hunting
hawks. I'm not sure how know need to search
taxidermy beads of their eyes for a message or sign
on magnetic winds from the far edge of sightlines
from beyond the ultra violet range of my hunger.
don't see you at first, among all the dark panelled cases.
then you cock your head to one side and it’s lit bronze
flecked with the salt of wide oceans, dirty cream fuzz
your throat, your chest puffed forward as you approach
pine needles and sand across the parquet floor.
these birds don't actually hunt. The surprise
your voice – Levantine perhaps, or somewhere further.
stand together in front of the glass case of feathers.
You say. Sometimes these birds wait in silence for prey. 

Ruth Steadman

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