Autumn Thoughts In The Nature Of

Seed pockets

Three autumnal poems.


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.

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.

Hal Rhoades

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.