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Dominic Fisher Poetry

As if a tree could stutter briefly into being
 lose all its leaves then vaporise”

Bonfire Night from a Loft Window 

23 24 Look up

The graffiti with the instruction in pink is in Leonard’s Lane in Bristol. This medieval way follows the line of where city walls once were and is now a narrow splurge of colour and words, a sort of curving abstract-expressionist poem. The people who walked here in the middle ages might think now they’d slipped into an exuberant Hell. They wouldn’t imagine that below them the fish market and harbour had gone, and that a village three miles north, where our allotment field is, was within the bounds of the city.

I find the lane a refreshing contrast to the depressing legacy of the last 13 years in the UK, the horrors of the Gaza conflict, of Ukraine and Sudan. There’s something hopeful about bright subversive paint even as we leave the hottest year in recorded history for another likely as hot.

I heard a moral philosopher recently saying that hope wasn’t only expectation and desire, as in dictionary definitions, but also a moral obligation. If we don’t exercise hope, she was saying, we resign ourselves to forces we should resist, become defeatist in other words. I certainly wanted to agree, but it’s very easy to feel powerless. Actually, I think that’s what a painted lane, a poem, a song – any piece of art, any apparently small communal act – is partly for: to make a spark, to give us a little more strength to push back.

In the poem below I was picturing what could happen to our field of allotments, if we had to abandon the whole area and it became depopulated for decades, as in Chernobyl for example. I suppose the hope is that nature will revive in our absence. Of course, you may not agree that this is likely or indeed any hope at all. But the possibility that nature will prove stronger than we are, even after all we’re doing, helps me look up.

When we leave this field

 

By June the waist-high grass will come to no one’s waist
but will be blonde and over-reached by finches in the thistles.

Not far behind, the brambles will be quick and wicked,
keys and wings will drop and root, go tall as sycamore and ash.

Three-inch oaks will shelter in the beetle green of holly
and jays will scream overhead among the ghosts of bean poles.

And whether the road at the top is heavy with retreat,
whether or not there’s smoke on the hills behind the motorway,

there will be seasons if no festivals, the moon will enter
empty roofs, the tumbled streets will fill with birds at dawn.

What’s already setting seed will grow and fall and grow again.
No paradox of knowledge will mar these mangled Edens then.

(from The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dead)