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I between sentences breathe

Spaces into space

That between words are

Slowly anatomised

First just moisture, then dust speck, then

Like cardigan fluff, silk scarf or clear button

Vigorous notions, unfinished sentences,

Held formaldehyde around me

Until such time as

Giddy and curious they

spill themselves around you.

make

Life of the shapes

You leave when you slip out of your shoes,

Or pick up the newspaper.

A poem inspired in part by  Phillip Pullmans idea of ‘dust’ and his creation story in His Dark Materials. But rather than a ‘this is how life began’ creation story, it’s about how unspoken ideas are formed and brought to life between people. I think. or something along those lines!

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Yesterday I visited Kew gardens for the first time and while wandering through the glasshouses I was met, unexpectedly, with a great sense of nostalgia. I was taken right back to the gardens I played in as a child in Jeddah! Giant Neems, Acacias, Rhododendrons, Palms and the smell of dates fallen and fermenting in the sun, the little banana tree by our back gate, small shiny brown seeds popping out of pods and me scraping those seeds up to add to a mud pie.

If I was ever to write an autobiography I would set the whole thing in gardens and gardens alone, luckily I don’t actually intend on ever writing this personal history through gardens but I have dug out an old poem I wrote in honour of our garden in Jeddah.

Garden Wall
You were there when we arrived
Dressed in dead rhododendron and dust
You held our tree house on two sides
Shedding layers like a weak wafer
You left crumb piles on the beds bellow.

You were there, still, when we left
Dressed in full bougainvillea and
Home to several strays
Your holes, perfect ant’s nests.

That day we wondered,
If we had asked you, would you have followed?
Garden wall? And now
If I was to call on you, would you come?
If I was to call out ‘Wall, make me a garden’

Would you find whatever it was that I loved
And hold us in your concrete hug,
Garden wall.

I took these photographs of rockpools in Devon several years ago and the skin-like surfaces sparked a thought. Years later, when I saw a man sitting alone on the still, silvery stretches of the North Norfolk coast at twilight,  not a rockpool in sight, I couldn’t help but scribble that thought down.

Taken

He fell asleep on the shore where there were no rock pools but where rock pools were craved. The new tide lingered moonward and his feet stared bare at the ocean. They waited until he was still and then, gently, they gushed the tide at him. Pumping brine inquisitively around him, measuring the arch of his back, the space under his neck, the salinity of his sweat, the weight of his head against the sand. At first, they took him softly, small green fish found a home of his ankles, seaweed slipped between his toes and his skin slowly slimed. If they sensed him waking the sea would shoosh him back to sleep. It wasn’t until the tide slacked seaward that they claimed him with full force. Barnacles to his cranium, kelp to the scalp. Muscles, cockles and whelks worked fast, welding together his toes, ears, eyes. Limpets locked themselves to his knees and sea anemones, hungry, gentle, fed on what was left of his softness. He lost all sense of human as the tide pulled away his last salty tear and left him there, two hundred thousand years older, with a sinewus suck and drag of the sea in place of his breath.

Rahima Fitzwilliam Hall

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