#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

A Plea to the Wizard’s Tree (or Fid Na Ndruad) – Week 49 #52weeksofnaturepoetry

Oh, Rowan! Fine, sturdy tree!

Won’t you grow beside our house

to repel wayward spirits wishing harm?

Mischievous fae; witches

threatening to curse family, crops

and land.

Your clusters of cream flowers

invoke days full of joy,

and each sour, scarlet fruit

wards against malevolence.

From the silvery grey of your bark

to your feather-like leaflets,

you could shield our grounds from unsavoury folk

without even trying.

In return, we’ll protect you

from woodcutters’ metallic bites,

mulch the ground by your roots,

restrict the harvesting of your berries

(which, you should be proud to hear,

 make wonderfully tart jam)

so each thrush, redstart, blackbird and waxwing

who visits won’t starve.

Dear fid na ndruad,

I don’t believe you acknowledge

how wonderful you are:

spoons turned from your fallen wood

keep milk from curdling,

a charm of bark in our pocket

eases rheumatic limbs,

and when we find our path unclear,

you’re the key that helps us divine.

So please, I know it’s a lot to ask,

but would you kindly indulge us

one last time?

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. 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

Conversation With A Flower – Week 39 #52weeksofnaturepoetry

Oh, purple, pouting flower

towering over me,

won’t you tell how you got your name?

Through tales of gifting socks and gloves

to heavy-pawed foxes

(thereby lessening the chance of them alerting prey).

Are they true?

These legends, these yarns?

Who can say, curious one?

I have flowered and perished

and flowered again

many times.

Any tales about my past

may contain slices of truth,

or none.

Surely you must know

of one that’s factual?

Come on, share.

Please.

Have you heard of dead men’s bells?

No?

An alternative term spoken in some parts,

spun from whispers

discussing my aptitude for raising the fallen

and souring the living.

You’re a wild thing, then?

Doing what you will

with any who trample your roots?

Nay, it’s simpler than that.

If a failing heart and high blood pressure

lay among a person’s troubles,

ingesting the right dosage

of my leafy makeup

can send the reaper scarpering from their door.

Nip too much, however,

and even the healthiest of souls

might find themselves snoozing

with the worms.

And other creatures?

What do they think of you?

Ask the carder bees.

Watch them kiss each tubular set of lips

and run off with pockets full of brilliant powder.

Listen as their buzzing wings proclaim

not all riches are jingling coins,

and I am a mine of treasures.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. 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!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 7 – Echoes of Wild

Their bodies were found in forests,

in fields, in rivers.

On roads, under windows, behind fireplaces,

in open water butts.

Their horrors were embroidered,

woes collected on their fur, feathers, skin:

Our nest sites vanished.

They bricked them up.

Metal demons in the fields

killed our chicks.

My kin and I were poisoned

by pellets put out for our prey.

We were hunters, keen eyes and talons always ready.

Yet we interfered with their ‘sport’ and became the hunted.

They cut off the pathways.

Forced us towards more dangerous routes.

They ordered a cull again, wished

to trim us down to size. Said we spread disease.

Bullets chased us through the trees.

Our feathers burst free as they struck.

Our mother was driven away by frenzied hounds,

leaving us to starve.

We had so few places to call home. So few.

We were once many. Now we are mere whispers,

morphing, slowly, into legend.

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!

[Edit] Here’s an article about how the RSPB are trying to improve farming practices to help wildlife: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/news/stories/hope-farm/

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

Bee quiz

How busy are the bees you see

When you see bees,

If you see bees?

Are bees the bee’s knees

At being busy bees?

 

I used to see them daily,

Buzzing to and fro,

Watching the nipping sips

They took from flowers

When they tired

And began to slow.

 

Those busy bees,

Those bee’s knees,

Have they busied themselves away?

Or have their tasty flowers

Given them death’s kiss

With a pesticide wave turned stray?

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Sweet things

The hessian sack over Parro’s head was clean, not dust ridden and mildew stained as she had expected. Then again, the soldiers guiding her and the rest of the group of potential royal poisoners were of the King’s personal guard.

Under her soft faux leather boots, she felt the firm evenness of flagstones. It was a welcome change from the three miles of cobblestones they’d just walked, and also a sign that they were finally nearing the castle. Perhaps they were already in the courtyard.

She felt herself being marched through a maze of sharp turning corridors, hearing the guards bark at any servant who wasn’t quick enough to scurry from the path. Eventually the party came to a stop. Then the clink of heavy chains, the grinding of a door that was not often used being opened, a sharp push forwards so that everyone stumbled against each other, and the same door being closed behind them.

The sacks were removed from everyone’s heads as the chains were being strung back across the door, and Parro got her first look at the King’s private audience chamber. The room was windowless, the light coming entirely from bright torches held in iron sconces on the walls. The floor was tiled with grey granite, and was devoid of decoration other than the royal banner at the far end, underneath which the King was sitting in a silver filigreed throne. His manservant stood next to him, still to the point that one might have mistaken him for a statue.

The King’s gaze was fixed on the poisoners, but none looked him in the eye except Parro. She examined him closely; his expression was flat and disciplined, but his eyes stared back at her with a keen intelligence. She quickly dropped her head; it would not do to give herself away just yet.

The captain of the guard made the poisoners stand in line, facing the interior of the room, where a table adorned with various apparatus was being set up for the demonstrations that Parro presumed would shortly take place. She caught sight of another group of people gathered in a dark corner. She focused her vision, and saw that they were shackled together. Prisoners. At least that answered the question of just how the demonstrations were to be carried out.

‘I presume they have all been checked, Captain?’ the King said when the preparations had been completed.

‘Of course, sire. I personally checked each candidate, only one of them had any marks pertaining to either spy or assassin guilds, and I dealt with him as soon as I found it,’ the captain replied, tapping the hilt of his sword meaningfully.

The King raised a bushy eyebrow. ‘Oh, from which guild?’

‘The Oens, sire.’

The King grunted. ‘The Oens? I’m surprised one of theirs made it as a candidate at all. It seems our selection protocol has become rather lax of late.’

The captain stiffened. ‘I shall see to it that proper disciplinary action is taken, sire.’

‘Good. Now, I think we should proceed, don’t you?’

The captain bowed, and turned to address the poisoners. ‘I shall call your names one at a time to present your skills. You may request as many prisoners to use for your demonstrations as you wish, but do not bore us with flowery words. Be direct, be swift, and be thorough. Once your presentation is complete, you must take your place back in line and wait while the other candidates present their skills.’ He took a scroll from his belt pouch and unrolled it, reading out the first name on the list. ‘Lector Heeny, please present yourself to His Royal Majesty, King Theroux the Second, Ruler of all Mentrolis.’

A thin, trembling man stepped forwards to the centre of the room, carrying a neat wooden box in his skeletal hands. He set it down on the table and opened it, taking out a myriad of vials and boxes, as well as a bottle of clean water, and began mixing various ingredients together with the apparatus that had been provided.

Parro stifled a yawn. The man’s poisons were basic and the shudder in his hand as he called for his first prisoner betrayed the fact that he had not once stayed to watch his victims die.

The prisoner, a middle-aged woman whose threadbare pantaloons were stained with fresh urine, struggled against the guards as they dragged her towards Lector Heeny. The poisoner gave a stammered speech to the King as to what the poison he had mixed would do, and then asked the guards to hold the woman’s head so he could poor the miniscule measure of green liquid down her throat. The pitiful man could hardly bare to look at her as he instigated her death.

The woman choked and tried to cough it up, but already her muscles had begun to seize. Within a few brief seconds, her entire body became stiff and she fell to the cold floor. Lector Heeny shuddered and turned away, already mixing the next poison for his demonstration.

So it went on. Poisoner after poisoner was called to display their lacklustre skills, while the bodies of their victims were hauled away and covered with a dark sheet. The King neither displayed his displeasure, nor acknowledged the candidates in any way… until Parro was called.

She walked to the table, putting her deep case up on its surface, and with her other arm, swept the apparatus laid out for her onto the floor. ‘Excuse me, your Majesty,’ she said as they shattered.

The King raised one bushed eyebrow. ‘It is unusual for a woman to be in your line of profession,’ he remarked.

‘I assure you that my skills are not lacking. In fact, to be worse than these other candidates would be impressive indeed, you Majesty,’ she said.

The King snorted in amusement. ‘I hope for your sake that your confidence is not unfounded.’

Parro smiled, and snapped open her case. From within, she pulled out two serving trays with domed metal covers, concealing the contents inside, and laid them on the table with a deft flourish of her arm.

‘What is this, woman?’ the captain snapped, rushing forwards. ‘His Majesty has called for poisoners, not a serving wench. How dare you waste his—‘

‘Captain, stand down,’ the King said, holding up his hand. ‘Let her proceed.’

The captain stepped back, his expression incredulous. ‘But sire—‘

‘Captain, if you disobey me, it will be your tongue on which this woman’s poisons will fall. Is that clear?’

‘Yes, sire,’ the captain replied, his face turning grey. He turned to Parro. ‘Proceed, woman.’

‘Why, thank you, Captain,’ she said. She took a bottle from her case, and placed it next to the first serving tray. Then she turned to address the King directly. ‘Your Majesty, there are a vast amount of poisons in this world and, while effective, a great many of these now have known antidotes. Though these antidotes are only available for a substantial sum, they are not out of reach for those of a high societal standing. It has also become expected now that when hosting a feast, someone is sure to be the target of a poisoner’s deft hand, so people are being more cautious than ever. Even the ambassadors of Importa and Tlousin, whom I believe have recently lost your favour, have prepared themselves for such.’

Surprise flickered across the King’s face, but he regained his control instantly. ‘You have kept yourself well informed, woman. However, what is your point on this matter?’

‘My point is simple, your Majesty. There is a growing need for new poisons, and I have concocted one that I believe you’ll find most interesting.’ Parro lifted the domed cover from the first tray as she spoke, revealing a curried dish boasting a hue of deep orange. The fine use of spices in the sauce made the dish so aromatic that it almost chased away the stench of the prisoners. Almost.

‘That is Umbren, is it not? A staple served widely in Tlousin,’ the King remarked.

‘And a favourite of Lord Enru, the ambassador of Tlousin,’ the captain added. ‘He requests we send for ingredients for it all the time.’

‘Indeed,’ Parro said. ‘The first poison I wish to demonstrate only reacts with certain seasonings, which means to say that if administered in any other food or drink, it will be harmless. It also merges with the ingredients so well that it becomes untraceable; even a practiced healer examining the stomach contents of the victim would not find it.’

She clicked her finger to the guards. ‘Two prisoners,’ she said. As the guards brought them to her, she undid the cork on the bottle, adding several drops to the curried dish and then pouring a measure onto a spoon again taken from her case. ‘Observe, your Majesty.’ Forcibly opening the first prisoner’s mouth, she let the poison drip straight onto their tongue from the spoon. Then, washing the spoon in water to remove any saliva, she used it to take a level scoop of the curry, which she then forced into the second prisoner’s mouth. Satisfied, she stepped aside so that the King could see the effects in full.

While the first prisoner made a face of disgust, the second fell to the ground without so much as a cry.

‘As you can see, with this poison, there is no violent frothing, convulsing or bleeding. The man might have died naturally of a brain clot, for all anyone need know.’

‘I see you were not merely boasting after all,’ the King said.

Parro inclined her head, acknowledging the compliment, and turned to the second serving dish, again removing the dome to reveal the contents. On the dish was a glass gravy boat, but instead of holding brown liquid, it was filled with a tart yet honeyed smelling condiment. ‘This is a popular new sauce for meats that has made its way here from the continent. I am sure your chefs are already perfecting the recipe to serve it to you. What they do not know, however, is that this sauce is a poison far more deadly than any you have seen today. The reason why no one realises it, including your chefs, is that by themselves, the ingredients are harmless, just as other spices and herbs. It is only when mixed do they become so potent, and they kill very, very slowly. Not only that, but the taste is believed to be so divine that the consumer quickly becomes addicted.’

The King stood up abruptly. ‘Are you trying to tell me that someone from the continent is bold enough to poison me, woman?’

Parro walked around to the front of the table, facing the King directly. ‘That is exactly what I’m telling you, your Majesty.’