Saturday, March 26, 2016

Now that April's (almost) there...

By Tracy

This northern spring marks twenty years since John & I first came to Cambridge together  (we'd been two years married at that point).

Photo by Tim Kinsella

In the grounds of Churchill College

Today, back here after Germany, we met the same beautiful spring weather as twenty years ago (though it's due to turn not-so-lovely from tomorrow).

Churchill daffodils, 2016

Daffodils are out everywhere, and in town the Easter crowds have been enjoying the sunshine.

Here's a section from a poem John wrote in Cambridge back in the early days here, in 1996, and published in Fenland Pastorals (Prest Root Press, 1998)... The poem is called "Triptych: Poems from Churchill College, Cambridge".

3. Seed Cases 
                        for Tracy

Dark clouds thicken overhead
but there's not enough moisture
in the air to prevent the cracking
of seed cases: that crackling

like fire in undergrowth,
or water exploding on hot metal.
A partial collusion of the elements—
only the fifth element missing,

as if the eponymous has no part
in the moment. You hear the seed cases
opening and searching your memory
for a name, a species, find nothing.

But it's a familiar sound—it brings back
Dryandra Forest in the South-West
of Australia. Even the hemisphere
is different. The brain struggles

with location. It's the moment
of aloneness that's captured you,
when nameless plants execute
their cycles. People are absent.

A robin glows nearby. You know
its name and it knows yours. It is wary
and you remain still. The seed falls
and covers friable earth like snow.

And here's one from my early Cambridge days, again an extract from a longer sequence called "Noli Me Tangere", written at Easter in 1996 and published in The Willing Eye (Fremantle Press & Bloodaxe, 1999 & 2000). (Back then I was still working my way out of the Christian faith in which I had grown up; I now have no belief in formal religion. Doubt was showing in the fuller version of this poem...) Note that the fickle Cambridge weather is in there already! The seasons no longer offering stable metaphors were a reference to the fact that climate change was already very noticeable, back when we had no Google yet and email was brand new to us.

Faith blows hot & cold
as Cambridge in spring
where late snow dissipates
before reaching any surface
where nothing penetrates

where those who drank in
yesterday's sun
are caught out now, ill-dressed
for this fickleness,

for this world whose seasons
no longer offer
stable metaphors for
spiritual states.

But then you were never
afraid of change
God of transitions
God of this Easter

constant & steadfast only
in your refusal
to be pinned there.

One of the things John likes about Churchill College is that its chapel is ecumenical (in fact his play "Ecumenical" was performed in that chapel in 2012, directed by Tim Cribb).

And here's a pic of the two of us in the early Cambridge days, in the same flats where we are now and have spent much time over those 20 years. (John used to get a lot more sun in those days, before skin cancers took their toll!)

Photo by Bettina Keil

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos and beautiful poems. "Late snow dissipates" must read differently to you now, perhaps more prescient than you realised.