#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 12 – Not So Grave

The stones are leaning, broken, face down. Grass hides the boundaries but also shelters little pockets of shoots. Snowdrops. Daffodils. Soon a clump of crocuses or two. Arthritic trees pop with new growth; tendrils sprouting straight from trunks, left to thrive and wild despite the careful manicuring of shrubs and hedges elsewhere on the plot. Buds collect on arms like dew, promising, teasing: soon, soon. Branches wave, collecting birdsong with the same enthusiasm as dry earth awaiting rain. The birds themselves are tiny, specks of brown-grey, black, yellow-green, and blue; mingling and chattering on, heedless of the slumbering residents grinning up at the daisies.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, sport-style fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 5 – Night Walking

Sounds of the road niggle at our backs,

shaking the illusion that we’re in the wild.

But I can ignore it, for a time.

Tonight, eagerness fills me:

We’re out after dark! What creatures will we see?

New torch in hand, I creep along,

ears honed to each whisper of leaves,

each disjointed splash

from the regular gurgling of the stream alongside us.

Light swings to the area; I temporarily summon the sun.

Feathered ferns sprawl from the ground, young maples at their sides.

Bramble, ivy, a fallen oak with spindly fingers of fresh growth.

And everywhere, single strands of glossy spider silk

stretching up, up,

like Rapunzel’s hair if she were given a sudden electric shock.

Too thirsty to care that our heads are turned its way,

a rat breaks through the foliage to sip its fill.

Yet aside from that, nothing else ventures near.

Nothing calls. Nothing chitters.

Have we walked into a void?

Is the fog, inching in so quietly,

dampening the area’s breath?

Or is the traffic hum, with its heart-thudding sirens,

too much for all but the boldest to come?

My fingers stiffen in the cold, clutched around the torch handle.

Massaging them awake, the light shifts position

and momentarily decorates my vision with spots.

I click the thing off.

Ink moves in around us. The night sighs

and spills with life.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise funds for UK wildlife charity RSPB and to encourage an appreciation for nature. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it and/or donating to the RSPB via my Just Giving page here.

Help keep wildlife wild.

Reviews, Uncategorized

Non-fiction book review: Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

A few weeks ago, my nan told me about a book written by an autistic teenager that recently won the Wainwright Prize (which is a UK award focusing on books about nature) and offered to buy me a copy. Naturally, having a great love of nature myself and also wanting to read more autistic voices, I said I’d love to read it. (Though, amusingly, the book is yellow, which is the one colour that is absolute sensory hell for me – an easy fix though, as I simply turned the dust cover inside out.)

The book is written in journal format and is compiled into sections based on the four seasons. It’s difficult to fully articulate my feelings on it, but I’ll try. (A warning, though: this is likely to be a long and rambling post detailing some of my own life experiences rather than just focusing on the book. I promise it will be relevant, though!)

Firstly, Dara’s writing is very evocative and poetic – I had serious writer envy on this one. He seems to have the ability to place you exactly in the situation he’s describing; every detail fed to you as if your own senses were picking it up. At least, that’s how it was for me – maybe it’s because the way my senses work are very similar to his, but judging by the amount of praise this book has had, I doubt it’s just that. This did, however, present something of a problem in that it was sometimes too much for me to handle. My head would be reeling after reading a section just like it does when I’m experiencing sensory overload. I was also a little intimidated at the beginning by the sheer knowledge he has; every species and sub-species mentioned is identified, which meant a lot of names to get my head around. I did get used to it once I got past the first quarter, but it took some time. But nature has been central to his entire life, so it makes sense that his knowledge is so vast.

Secondly, his passion leaks from every word, and while noting the intricacies and completely fascinating things, he also goes into detail about the very real threats to the world (I would say the natural world, but we are part of nature rather than separate from it): climate change, deforestation, hunting, pollution, just to name a few. Now, as mentioned above, nature is one of my loves too, and I’m very passionate about protecting it. But over the years, the apathy and unkindness of others has beaten down my willingness to express why it’s important to me. I used to share all the petitions I sign on my social media pages, but now only share a handful, and in 2013, I tried fundraising for a charity (Cool Earth – check them out if you can) by getting tattooed in the armpit, only to have very little response. Realising that I’d pretty much silenced myself without even knowing came as quite a shock. And I felt like I’d let myself and the environment down, that I wasn’t doing enough.

But I kept reading, and as Dara also documents his mental health, having experienced intense bullying at school because of his interests, I came to understand that the key to why I stopped was because my own mental health wasn’t good enough to handle such negativity. That, and I get so overwhelmed about how much of a crisis the world is in that I feel like I might be crushed by it.

However, I also came to realise that though I haven’t been as vocal as I would like, I’ve still continued doing things to try and bring about the changes I’d love to see. I still sign petitions, and when my finances allow, I donate to relevant charities. I also sneak bits into my books to generate awareness, like including several stories focusing on endangered animals and deforestation in my short story collection, When the Bard Came Visiting, and having characters interact with nature in quite profound ways. So, while I might have too much anxiety to go to a climate march (not that that would be a good idea during the current pandemic), or experience too much overwhelm to constantly share facts about how much the rainforests have been cut down or the oceans have been polluted by plastic and oil spills, I can continue to do the little things within my area of expertise. And if I spark even one person’s passion for the environment, then it’ll be worth it.

Now, back to the actual book.

Dara’s ability to reflect on his experiences is really what makes this book come together, and though at first it seems quite simple, it covers an awful lot of ground. As I mentioned above, he talks about mental health and bullying, and how it’s often quite hard for autistic people to express themselves. I know from my own experiences how difficult it is – the ideas are there in my head but refuse to come out in any intelligible way. He also splashes in bits of Irish and world mythology here and there, which creates yet another layer to what he’s reflecting on. I really loved reading those parts.

In short (after taking far, far too much space going over the ‘long’), this book is a beautiful exploration of our world and being part of a minority within it, and despite the mental turmoil it caused within me, left me with an awful lot of hope, too.

If, as I would urge, you decide to pick up a copy, you can get it here. I would also encourage you to check out his blog and Youtube channel too.

Poetry

The Walking Tree

The tree gazed at the disappearing ground.

It couldn’t stay there,

its nourishment would be gone.

So it gathered up its roots into vast legs

and stumbled its way across the

evaporating forest

to an area of neat grassland,

digging down to plant itself beside

the hive of two-legged beings

who spilt their freshly poured coffee

and ran to their moving metal boxes

to get out of its wake.

Poetry

Toxic

My lungs hunt for fresh air,

snatching in every touch of breeze they can.

But recently the freshness can’t be found.

The air is choking. Curling smoke and fumes

culminate into balls and whack themselves

into my system.

I can feel it, but no one else seems to notice.

The vapour from their own breath

comes out black.

Poetry

Crude

Pine fresh, they say
stepping from the dark pool
that was flora, that was fauna,

that was lost, that was found
and now is used. Its lifeblood spilt.
Split into molecules, measured for worth, for potential
for making cloaks of green paper
with no chance to rest.

The ghosts of it chant as they chug from engines
itching to join the mists and rain back into the soil that was home.

Some do, only to find they have become poison and turn the earth black.

Poetry, Uncategorized

Weather change

If the breeze could speak, I wonder if it would tell us where it’s come from.

Tell us about the butterflies that have surfed on it, or the parachuting spiders waiting to paint the trees with silk.

How many bodies it’s brought together,  channeling life from flower to flower,

catching dreams and sending them by sky post to Mary Poppins.

Would it tell us about the cut trees it’s seen, the hunters who have no hunger to warrant hunting, the water that was ice and the islands not made of rock or soil, but plastic?

Maybe it already is speaking and we just haven’t learnt how to listen.

Poetry

Broken Time

The couple are seated, quietly speaking on a bench.

They talk of days, of moments, of ups, of downs.

Nothing they do disturbs the hustle beyond them, until someone

claims that it does.

 

They’re sitting too close, if they want to be intimate, find somewhere else.

They remain seated, talking. Just talking.

Those things shouldn’t be spoken about in public. Save them for later.

They hesitate, then continue talking.

Is there something wrong with you? It’s crazy you would be so open. What if a child hears you? Do you really want that?

 

Tainting them? Tainting me? Tainting us?

 

Voices that were silent now crash over the couple’s moment,

blocking their words, twisting them, unhinging them.

 

The couple takes out a tube of bubbles trying to seal themselves away.

It works, but the clock is already counting down until it pops.

 

They hope no-one appears with a pin.

Poetry

Droplets

They roll down your cheeks,

Little universes

Each containing a fragment of your

Astonishment and pure joy.

A child whose eyes have been

Opened to the beauties of the natural world;

Meadows full of wild flowers,

Rock pools and puddles,

Waves rushing forward

Like herds of galloping white horses.

But you are no child,

And the wonder overwhelming you is

Love,

In its truest form,

And the knowledge that she

Is filled with it too,

Her body not big enough to contain it.

So out it comes

As tears

to match yours.