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28 Nov 2014

Fiona Benson, Bright Travellers: Poem for James

The Friday Poem this month is Fiona Benson's 'Poem for James' taken from her intensely moving first collection Bright Travellers

The poems move on archaeological fast-forward from submerged Devonian forests and a Paleolithic cave-bear skull to the site of decommissioned submarines at HMNB Devonport, where the sea is ‘still a torpedo-path, / an Armageddon road’. She explores the shared human continuum of bodily longing – from the Prehistoric maker of a wooden fertility fetish, to a modern-day couple wading through summer pollen – and the timeless cycles of conception, birth and child-rearing.

Poem for James

Summer; thunder pulsed on the horizon
while hummingbirds slipped through the thickened air
to circle the dropper, sip sugared water,
and I half-waded, half-swam, thigh-deep in pollen,
which rose in a haze from their meadow-grown lawn.
I was straight off the bus in that glaze of heat,
my unwashed skin peppery with sweat,
rucksack, camera, dirt, bearing me down
to the devil. But there you were, waist-deep in saffron,
your long arms folded and every hair on them
glowing like bronze, your red hair on fire
and your dark eyes attentive, though you don’t remember,
which is why I’m writing it down, from the goldenrod in bloom
to your nimbus of insects lit by the sun.