I am delighted to introduce this month’s guest poet Sue Kindon. We met on Zoom during lockdown 1, through a mutual poet friend.
Sue Kindon lives and writes in the French Pyrenees. An enthusiastic member of the local slam team, her greatest achievement to date is an award for a poem in French.
Kindon was Runner Up in the 2021 Ginkgo Prize (for Eco-poetry); and has two pamphlets to her name – She who pays the piper (Three Drops Press, 2017) and Outside, the Box (4Word Press, 2019). The poems in the latter were sparked by the box moth plague that devastated the landscape a few years ago.
I’ve selected five poems from Outside, the Box, to give you a taste of the range and humanity of Sue’s poems.
Box Moth (Cydalima perspectalis)
white moths haunt each hedge
all summer their larvae gorge
on our ancient ways
The House of Running Water
We’re so far off the mains, I cross myself,
or is it my reflection? Our drinking water
isn’t purified, sobbing in glugs
from a faery underworld
just beyond the spring line.
Boils, frogs, plagues of grass snakes
are there none. The kitchen tap
dispenses an incessant stream
in spite of some newly-converted saint
bottled up in supermarket plastic.
Every day an elven-prince
strikes rock with his divining rod
and sets loose unchlorinated magic:
we drink deep, until our inner walls
cascade with the stuff.
I could never return, now my mind
is clean as the washing on the line.
Townsfolk have forgotten
how the old world flows.
It must be something in the water.
I thought of you as a sister
from the start.
You were the one who insisted
I worked in the shade, you saw
that my fair skin reddened
in the southern sun trap
of the presbytery walls.
Your straight larkspur back
bent for hours as you laboured
to remove chiendent and petty spurge.
You would go missing
for a quick smoke
outside the tall grey gates
of our temporary eden, and I felt
the loss, sure as the last petals
falling from the climbing rose.
Then you’d be back,
tending the last geranium
and offering a kind word
I might not understand.
So much more I wanted to say:
and now I’m gaining confidence
with the language, it’s already
winter, and the gates are shut.
Death came to me as a zebra
crossing my path. I’m not ready yet,
I said, and he stepped aside.
As I passed by, I admired
the pull of perfect stripes,
the kiss of dark mane
and I was nearly fooled
by his op-art trompe-l’oeil invitation
to step into his black-and-white-wash skin
and set down my bright sorrow.
I was dazzled by the glow
of skeletal zebra ribs
until I saw the shadow
of famished lion at the tunnel mouth
and smelt the jitter of my blood on parted lips.
Jardin de Curé – Damage Limitation
Our prayers have kept the moth at bay –
and careful spraying – chemicals
have underplayed their part.
The volunteers have withered up
or died. A few stalwarts
welcome late summer visitors
but when it comes to weeding,
they pull the flax
and leave the nipplewort.
Nettles flourish by the chapel wall.
annexes the cabbage plot.
At least the box hedge is intact.
Our prayers have kept the moth at bay.