|Image by Amanda Elwell, courtesy Red Edge Images|
JOHN CLARE IN LOVE
He first saw her from afar –
tramping across the field, a kind of moving statue,
a girl heavy in good places.
He scrambled up a pollarded tree to mark her shape
and direction. He’d fallen from trees before. This time
despite the ale, he hung on.
Even from a distance he knew she’d look
fine milking cows. Her sturdy form, those hands
would draw the milk, would work the teats.
High in the tree, he was more besotted than a bird,
and happier. His eyes followed her vanishing
over the grassed horizon. He climbed to earth,
penned two poems to her beauty. Anyone in love
will recognize this, the heart’s highest moment, this ledge
of clock before the beloved’s mouth
opens and awry things go and go until the end of time.
But there’d be buckets to fill with wildflowers,
the greensward to harvest, before that befell them,
her name to discover. Could she love a lime-burner?
Like any decent girl she’d send him away.
But he’d return. Until then, in his choking
shifts at the kiln she’d cross that pasture in his mind
a thousand times and what he began to think was,
she walked like someone who could read.
(First published in The New Quarterly)
Jeanette Lynes is the author of six collections of poetry and one novel. Her seventh book of poems, Bedlam Cowslip: The John Clare Poems, will be published by Wolsak and Wynn in 2015. Jeanette is coordinator of the MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan. Read my conversation with Jeanette Lynes here.