Three autumnal poems.
Haws Because they’re red they say you cannot eat the haws and call them ‘birds' meat’. But we know better. The haws and leaves are bread and cheese we chew in autumn’s glut striding across the fields to spit their pips into the green of possible lives.
On the Bare Hill Men have been up on the hills burning gorse, razing bracken. I stand in dark, dead hearths blackening my boot tips among broken bottles, smelling ash on a bitter breeze. When I was young we toasted wine corks on the hob, daubed ourselves in ashy camouflage, tucked ferns in our belts and disappeared into the woods to lie all day in undergrowth smelling of soil, deer’s hooves, adder’s underbelly. Shall I take off my clothes and roll naked in hill brack? Smear a blue-black crosshatch, break up my outline, Step out of things. Shall I walk away, grieving, in a fashion old as red ochre and white clay, following damp hanks of lily-white wool snagged along barrow tracks of broom Spared the fire? I remember: lime seas of bracken unfurling, spiked fists of gorse erupting, yellow flowers, smelling of coconut.
Moot In the water meadow: an old man bowed in a circle of black cows lifts the fine tilth of molehills into an old pail hums quietly to the seeds rustling in his pocket.
How I write
It generally goes like this: the hare lopes by, unseeing; the kestrel crashes through the holloway roof; the old hawthorn creaks in a gale by the river. Into gaps left by these happenings,words flow and, if I am lucky, sometimes poems form. For me, poetry is the Grammatica Parda or ‘tawny grammar’ that Gary Snyder writes about in The Practice of the Wild. A direct, fleeting, fragile and magical result of minds crossing, blending for a second, leaving their impressions.
Uncertainty is essential. In the outdoors, I try to adopt a thoughtful, open stance – walking, sitting, lying – and then wait for something to happen; for co-writers of poetry to turn up on wing, foot or fin.
Hannibal Rhoades is an anthropologist, environmentalist and writer. He lives in the Malvern Hills and works for Action for Conservation on the Penpont Project in the Bannau Brycheiniog.
Here he is with Igor in Northern Canada.
Poems copyright © Hannibal Rhoades 2023.