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Frosty winter morning showing fields and hedges. Photo by poet Nicola Healey

Another Year

Another Year

The bare trees are veiled in static mist
under a white sky
and the air is somehow airless.

I cannot work out where we are.
We’re beyond Epiphany – well beyond
the stir of Christmas. 

But the slender lilac crocus spears have broken ground, 
just as last year, so tender 
it seems unwise. 
Their simple plan just to live 
is bold and exciting.

And eight long-tailed tits – buff and black 
full teaspoons of bird – zee zee and whirl past me
like a flight of hungry schoolchildren.

A trickle of snowdrops
hang their neat heads, shielding pollen
like a thinker shields thought.

Nothing is full of this 
quiet force.
Crocus bud in snow by poet Nicola Healey

‘how beautiful they are, / as though their bodies did not impede them.’ 
                                           – ‘Messengers’, Louise Glück

One year, a deer appeared on Christmas Day,
as though it had stepped out of a story,
broken free from the night-before sleigh.

It lay down by the garden fence, and we
gazed through the window like children,
feeling watched over, almost chosen.

It left behind a ‘deer couch’: a faint imprint 
of its whole weight in the grass, resonant
as the empty chair of someone you’ve lost.

If I hadn’t seen the deer, I would have thought
nothing of this space, not sensed this
warm airy cast. The unbodied – 

they leave imprints everywhere.
Robin Interlude

After your ragged moulting, on one sudden
day of sun, you broke the darkening autumn
with a song so pure and plaintive, the pained
cochlea collapsed around molten silver, pouring

into my ear. Your encore: that other sound
beyond hearing: with me so still and you
so close, I felt the trill of your wings
beat through my neck as you flew on.

Listen to Nicola reading ‘Robin Interlude’, ‘Imprint’ and ‘Another Year’.

How I write – by Nicola Healey

‘Many of my poems begin accidentally outside in the garden, sparked by small or fleeting, yet concentrated, impressions – defiant, quiet or peripheral forces of nature that take me by surprise. Though it can be desolate, winter feels a deeply pensive and poetical season, its bareness perhaps reflecting truth and the unknown, as well as revealing a haunting, crystalline beauty through its exposed lineaments.

‘When I was writing ‘Another Year’ in January, I was struck by Emily Dickinson’s enigmatic lines: ‘“Nothing” is the force / That renovates the World’, which harness the hidden power within apparent nothingness, linking it with the potential to make things new.

‘I find a poem-in-the-making can feel unlikely, fragile, and then inevitable, as though it has to be, like the crocus bud that pushes through frozen ground. These poems try to respond to, recreate and find solace in isolated aspects of nature in an often inhospitable world.’

Nicola Healey’s poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Rialto, The London Magazine and Wild Court, among other places. She won the PBS Metro Poetry Prize 2021, was a runner-up in the Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry 2020 and was longlisted for the inaugural Nature Chronicles Prize 2022. She is the author of Dorothy Wordsworth and Hartley Coleridge: The Poetics of Relationship, a revision of her PhD which she gained from the University of St Andrews.

‘Robin Interlude’ was commended in the Resurgence Poetry Prize 2015.

Poems and images © Nicola Healey, 2023.

Poet Nicola Healey

Nicola Healey.

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