Poem: A Norfolk Spring Trio

These Norfolk Spring Trio poems are:

#1 Blackthorn Winter
#2 Church and Copse
#3 Norfolk, UK, The Universe

Norfolk Spring Trio #1 Blackthorn Winter
Richard D North

The hedges and copses
reached for spring –
but blushing with pinks and reds
as might a young girl
trying on a first slip and stockings.

She is
proud but modest,
not yet greedy for display
but drawn to the mirror,
half fearing the satyr’s gaze,
half thrilling to its promise
of danger and fulfilment.

And so the spring,
quite shy,
overlooked by winter’s gaunt trees,
gray and massive across the fields,
tried out its flaunting,
ready for summer
but daily chastened by hail and snow.

It was a day
of showers and brightness,
and a walker stopped,
and gasped at blossom
and basked in sudden sunshine.

But something shifts:
the weather growls at our complacency,
and if we look towards the Arctic,
its wind stings our eyes

The blackthorn blossom
still tightly bound –
its flowers making tiny fists –
seems to match the hail
bead for bead,
amongst the thorn,
as though it was Christ’s crown
translated into
a bride’s.

It is so cold
the wood anenomes
turn their faces to
where the sun
only sometimes shines
finding little encouragement,
keep themselves furled
as a woman
might cross her arms
against the chill.



Norfolk Spring Trio: #2 Church and Copse

This is a scene formed
when young men
with hot potatoes
in their pockets
spliced saplings into hedges,
and most of them believed
in God, Christ
and Divine Right
and all the rest of it –
more or less.

Ivy vines assault the oaks,
seeming to feel no seasons,
clothing their victims
as an infantryman’s great coat
might in winter –
to whether the life within
thrives or not –
only to be inherited
by a tramp in summer.

Massive pines
along the lines of fields
seem black,
but reveal themselves
as sequestered deepest green.

They are sentinel;
each a little battered
and the line almost ragged,
like Singer Sargent’s
gas-blinded soldiers.

Approached by these soldierly tree lines
and hedges,
bridal in the spring,
there is Barton Turf church,
in its own
informal arboretum,
disdaining to be aristocratic
but attaining grandeur nonetheless.

Classy old
St Michael and All The Angels,
bright and bone-cold,
quietly boasts –
it shields and displays –
a rood screen,
by cherubims and kings,
all glamorous and expressive,
and mostly spared by the Puritans
in a moment of carelessness,
or weakness.

These holy figures
parade where
there have been so many
for beginnings
and joinings and endings.

Close by the church,
equally composed,
there is
its temporal
a Victorian vicarage
a proper gentleman’s home,
fit for scholarship and prayer,
perhaps for hunting,
and nature writing,
and the rearing of a huge brood
to raise the rafters.

These two houses,
God’s and man’s,
are surrounded by
familial trees,
more than a copse,
more than a few individuals,
nothing solitary,
nothing crowded.
close but not massed.

Mighty but composed
in this terrain,
of man and spirit,
the trees seem
somehow painted as much as planted.

Some may hold a
line of descent,
right here,
from the end of the ice age,
seed and season tracing back
from faithless ages,
through tumult,
and belief.

Others maybe rode here,
in a pocket,
cosseted in
a seed-man’s packet,
or grown to infancy
in a nursery.

One sees them,
planted after breakfast
by the rectory’s
busy scholar – or
his man, or the sexton –
and pondered-over by any of them
with pipe and tumbler.

And the ensemble
of brick and stone
and glass and tile,
and these show-trees,
is moored to the rest of England,
to the ploughed fields,
and tilthed for potatoes,
and to the village and
and holiday homes
and garages,
and mini marts run by Asians
and well-spoken cooperatives,
and boatyards
and soggy carr
and withy patches.

This England of Ayckbourn and Leigh
and HE Bates and Rod Liddle,
and Housman and Hardy
and Kipling and Nigel Farage,
is moored to
the church
and rectory
and their dependent trees
by the flayed hedges
and the folorn pines
and by defiant oaks.



#3 Norfolk, UK, The Universe

As a boy –
a suburban teenager
growing up with Cliff, Ray Charles
and the Stones –
I walked sunny roads
where friendly semis
poured forth girls
the cherry blossom,
put me in an ecstasy.

I knew each molecule of each
Surbiton petal.
And way beyond all that,
but next door too,
I knew each atom of every star
waiting for its night-time turn to show.

I was not at peace with the world,
not exactly,
nor with myself,
and yet I felt myself fully alive;
at once alone
and partaking
in the whole universe.

One knows nothing in such a state.
One is beside oneself,
surfing hormones
which outpace
even the plastic brain’s
of catching up.

And even now
when bliss is a little mellowed,
on a spring-sharp Norfolk day, say,
by sparkling hedge,
or indoors
in front of a mediaeval face
in glass or thread,
or a rood screen,
I say to myself,
and sometimes out loud
perhaps to
some startled stranger,
that I feel uplifted –
and at sea.

I have never known faith
nor thought I should love Nature.

But now I know,
what I always felt,
that man
is animated stardust –
the vessel, the vector,
of consciousness
by which –
I sometimes think –
god recreates himself –
for better or worse.

I may yet rage against the insolence
of woodland birds,
which carol
unfeeling Spring
as I waste away
into dead Winter,
and yet
even then
I may hope for a
bird-feeder beyond the window,
as my sister had,
when she died.

And I who have
only a general confidence
in humanity
may yet want
more than anything
to hold a stranger’s hand.

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Publication date

15 March 2017


RDN's poems