Geraldine Green

Poems and Prose by Dr. Geraldine Green,  writer-in-residence Swarthmoor Hall, from ‘Salt Road’ 2013 pub. by Indigo Dreams ed. Ronnie Goodyear

Geraldine Green - Extract from “Poems of a Mole Catcher’s Daughter”  pub. in “The Other Side of the Bridge” 2012 Indigo Dreams ed. Ronnie Goodyear

Extract from “Poems of a Mole Catcher’s Daughter”

If I      stand             here  
hearing       only

the     wind
blown           in
on the
of the
Irish Sea.

If I     
close my     eyes
hold my        breath
count to        ten

will I see Granda’ Fitz’s
brother,    Joe?

Hear him
making up   poems
as he strode
along             the     lane
to        St Bees?

An old top hat
he’d found
in the hedgerow
pushed back
on his forehead
a whistle
in his hand
his eyes mad
as a blackbird’s
caught in the rain.

His hands fluttering
like birds
his hair listening
to the wind
his mouth
opening and closing
like a baby bird’s.

His worms are words
his caterpillars are
rhymes and starlings
his poems a way
of letting jackdaws
in his head
out for a while

before they
lock him up again

in the workhouse.

You can sit on any
of these limestone outcrops
watching Meadow Browns land on
harebells, Alpine ladies slippers
or tormentil, listen to the wind
shushing bracken
as you sit sheltered, dog to one side
panting, waiting for a stick
to be thrown.
Listen to larks rising, 
pulling scent of thyme from earth,
their song falling like water.

Should you ever get bored with tormentil,
Meadow Browns or harebells, raise your eyes,
look at horses on the horizon.
Sea-Jay or shire mare, Annelise,
or white ones
folding over mudflats and marram
as the tide licks its way
into gulleys and channels.

Don’t be fooled,
it may look as though it’s creeping –
each wave searching
for a foothold
but underneath lies its venom,
quicksand and currents.

Watch it
rush in under the viaduct at Plumpton,
or sit near the hide at the south end of Walney
when it empties the Bay,
returns to the Irish Sea.

The bees I hear are the ones that
live in two hives made from wood
over the dry stone wall just down
from where the road drops from
Bardsea village and joins the coast road.
They, one side of the wall and I, the other.

I watch them, the bees, as they hum
their way into air into honey, gather the
delicacies of spring, spin their winged
bee-sunned bodies into nectar.

Below the earth worms grow rich and fat
on composting bodies – the badger I saw
last October, shot-down crow, wounded
rabbit its glazed eyes gazing up
to the sun, pulled

into darkness by beetles and worms, then,
through nature’s slow, alchemical rhythm
turn into light, become the nettles that hide
the hives, become the nettles that throw
green pollen.

Morecambe Bay

I've never seen this before, oyster-catchers stretched out
in a well-drilled line as the tide comes in
the roar of its dull thunder powering the sea
that pours across flat sands.

One moment
I could've sworn all I saw was mud, but
as the sun breaks cover
to draw the bay silver, it’s the tide I see
bellying in with sidewinder waves
and the birds, black-and-white waiters with orange bills
dragging it in on invisible filaments
like a table cloth
all along the edge of the sea
over flat, grey mud where waves curve
and birds scurry, actors
in the twice daily drama of drawing
the tide shorewards.

Crunched icy pebbles and sand
along the beach from Deganis' ice cream hut
to the far end of sea wood and back
in isolation and fog.

Only sound the whirring explosion
of a sandpiper
darting from the reeds
up and off and over mudflats.

A pair of egrets looking
as though someone had cut shapes
in fog exposing these pure white
small, heraldic herons.

The season for shrimps and
a sign chalked on blackboard
‘shrimps second cottage on right’
the names of trees in
Bardsea woods.
I used to know them
I used to know these things.
The name of Bill Stables’ dog
that trotted behind him
as he rode his bike to Baycliff
to catch the tide
the sight of Gillam
padding barefoot round
his grocery shop in town.
I used to know the feel of a
lapwing chick in my hand
taste of wild strawberries
taste of a new laid egg
my dad had found in the hedge
on his way home from his shift
at Glaxo. I used to know
the feel of wind on bare skin
when I ran through bracken
smell of mud its soursalt tang
sound of the buzzer at Vickers
sight of thousands of men pouring
out through the yard’s iron gates
on foot, on bikes, in cars – but
back then mainly on foot or bikes.
Sight of the first primrose
hidden among gorse
on the railway embankment
Nethertown, just by the bungalow
and always a kestrel hanging

on the wind above the clifftop
always the sound of the Irish Sea
always that taste
sweet as a nut
of freshly peeled shrimps
hauled in
loaded onto tractors, driven
over mudflats across the Bay
I used to know.

the seagulls the tide full and returning
the noise the cries, purple-pink light
sun rising, bruised sky, air lifting.

I have to write this down
the air and sea the palms outstretched, open
holding the moment
the past, the future and
what is to come
the thankfulness of ocean, ebb tide flowing
seagulls' cries, air, sun, purple –
pink light, bruised sky

an opening now clear and opal
open palms facing the dawn cupped palms
cradling in one palm the moment in the other
a poem, together open
praising the day.

Late afternoon, I walk
alongside the mud flats
of Morecambe Bay –
             the bay           
the flats
the tide that swings
its way in & out –
different. Different.

I walk out into wind,
salt & flat-caked mud
baked white in the sun,
tread among samphire,
spiked as yet unplumped
shoots of bright green
small pockets of prayer
parcels of ozone and ask:
are you really samphire,
that bright jewel of
Picked, plucked,
remembered from Lear?

And into the salt and the sea
and into the tide & the flats
I follow the footprints: trainers,
knobbled patterns in salt,
horse's hooves
branding sky
into flesh,
salt into sand,
me into them,
us into us all.
A caterpillar tyre
a shrimper’s tractor
curving round & out –
I curve like that
eating samphire
as if I'm its juice
as if I'm its flesh
as if I'm crushed  
into samphire green
I pause.
take breath
take in the sweep and sway
before the next wash of tide.

In from a wet walk in Priory woods, sat under the cedar of Lebanon in the rain, straight rain, rain that splats commas on your coat rain, rain that soaks fleece-lined trouser-rain, growing rain. Under a yew tree not far from the giant cedar primroses are flowering in pale yellow clusters. By the dog graves snowdrops pushing up shoots alongside daffodils and graves with names of Gem, Faithful, Satan, Lucifer.

I sat on that seat for ages, staring up at the cedar, then across to the Priory, almost lost myself in green rain, damp fertility and offstage oyster catchers calling at low tide on the estuary. I walked on a little way then stopped and stared at sphagnum moss growing on the branch of a fir… its branches spread like a miniature tree. I could gaze at moss for ages; its different greens, delicate fronds, miniature ecosystems growing on trees. Sticky iron-ored earth: colour of young buffalo.

Of Reeds and Teasels

Humid, dampish walk along Bardsea beach – a day pleasant with finches up and down, feeding on teasels and warblers on reeds. The silky-tasselled reed heads are turning purple now.

Geraldine’s blog: