Radovan’s beesThat summer, the sun shot relentless level beams at fields so heavy with poppies they slept standing: plums, hung closer to the ground than anyone could remember, fell with a dull implosion into weed-strangled ditches and corn cracked its kernels like pistol shots. Above it all, the bees danced in the dazzling air, testing the fragrance of mountain, lake and forest, gathering pollen from as far afield as Prijedor and Goražde. Having been around for 35 million years, they knew everything: even why their honey sometimes tasted of blood – children’s was sweeter than parent’s and grandparent’s. In the city, a swarm descended on a tree above the Luda Cuca and the local people, worried about being attacked, bought insecticide and came to the place, but Radovan said: “Don’t kill the bees - bees are blessed, living beings and deserve to be saved.” © Jenny Lewis, unpublished, July 2008
Bears nilPeople who live in foggy Petropavlovsk- Kamchatky should know that bears are now encroaching on towns rummaging in bins and scoffing factory food garbage. The bears would rather stay at home roaming the geysers and snow-covered calderas of the remote volcanic peninsula they’ve always shared with rare Steller’s sea eagles and puffins. nine time zones away in Moscow the daily papers carry stories about them showing pictures of their snarling snouts and yellowing tusk-like canines. They attacked two guards at a geology station because they were starving - their food supply was gone poachers have emptied the rivers by netting fish so no more salmon for the bears to eat: now, suddenly, they’re the Al Capones of the animal world - sling them a hat and a revolver and each one turns into the Godfather, stumbling out of ice-bound thickets with wadded cheeks, mumbling incomprehensible death threats. Meanwhile, in the wild far eastern region of Kamchatka puffins and sea eagles stare out across the wilderness wondering why it’s so quiet: and where all the bears have gone. © Jenny Lewis, unpublished, July 2008
A druid sends a postcard homeWith apologies to Craig Raine I have two homes and a chill box bought from Marks and Spencer; the chill box is to keep Prosecco cold; Prosecco is a wine from Italy; Italy is a romantic place where it is always sunny; yes it’s the same as your sun. I have a trophy wife; a trophy is a cup with handles you get for winning a competition; no, she doesn’t have handles; we have several holidays each year; last time we went to Barbados for Christmas; I missed the mistletoe. I drive a red 4X4 and a silver BMW; BMW is a make of car from Germany; Germany is where the Anglo-Saxons came from; Anglo-Saxons are due to conquer you soon; 4X4’s are used by the rich to clog up roads; roads were invented by Romans, also due to conquer you. I wear the finest shirts by Gieves and Hawkes; they are a firm of tailors in the City; the City is London where money is made; it is on the Thames, pronounced ‘Temms’ which is what you first called it; it is now so polluted the fish are dead; sorry, I know you put them there. Do you still have an allergy to badger fat? Have you finally repaired the mead hall? Does your cave still flood in March? Do you still eat mainly saxifrage and seaweed? Do they still bring you out in red spots? Save me some pignuts. I might be back. © Jenny Lewis, unpublished, September, 2008
GuinivereI polished it every morning after the jousting, tenderly, with beeswax smelling of honey and lavender reflecting on those days when I ran barefoot through the meadow over a sea of grass and clover: in the sky above, voluminous high clouds like ships that I could jump on and travel to the four corners of the world where white-gowned angels blew their trumpets and shouted ‘Arise! Arise!’ while here below, whole banquets of roast peacock stuffed with goose, duck, chicken, pheasant, grouse, guinea fowl, pigeon, ptarmigan, blackbird, swallow, house martin, swift, robin, chaffinch and wren went cold while we sat and stared, waiting for a miracle. To pass time I thought about my lover, the way he removed his armour piece by piece, always in the same sequence: gloves, surcoat, hauberk, gambeson and lastly helmet, revealing the face I loved braided with scars but still astonishing as the May morning I first saw it: better by far than his who sent the green knight’s head rolling among gnawed bones of hunting dogs I wondered then, why I wasn’t chosen: I always tried to get things in the right order – swift, robin, chaffinch no…swift, chaffinch, wren, robin…gloves, surcoat or maybe, gloves, hauberk…I lost my gems…my looks night and morning, I polished the table but they wouldn’t let me into the secret, only the purest, they said, could see it. Now I wash and wash myself, face, hands, feet and always last the place near my heart where I feel my soul burn. © Jenny Lewis, unpublished, July 2008
The following poems are from Mesopotamia about the eponymous World War I campaign, a work in progress by Jenny Lewis.
MirageThe land and sky trick us with mirages of enemy troops becoming trestle tables which float over the ground before turning into camels. We can’t tell how many or how close they are – we dive for cover, frightened by bushes: sunset behind a mound is the flare of shrapnel over shepherds, watching their flocks under the first stars.
QurnaYou think of deserts and date palms but this land floods in winter, temperatures below freezing and sleet blowing in hard curtains – worse than Wales! Getting to Qurna was slow going: water, glutinous mud, everything sank – guns, supplies, mules; the injured sloshed along on old AT carts, in agony for lack of morphine. On Thursday we built a bridge of boats to reach the so-called Garden of Eden – a place of reed hovels, lanes littered with rubbish and a keeling Tree of Knowledge growing through a shell-pocked roof. No wonder Adam and Eve left.