Poetry by Patricia Hemminger

Returning Home to East Yorkshire

I had forgotten the shape

of chestnut trees, the deep green

hedgerows, crows on clay roofs, 

stone walls dividing fields,

sheep scattered on slopes.

I had forgotten the mosaic floor,

bordered with red and black 

squares, deep pit excavated 

beneath the orchard when I was four, 

remnant of a Roman fort.

I had forgotten how I dawdled, plucked 

daisies on grassy mounds, 

one now found to house an Iron Age queen,

blue glass beads and chariot wheels 

speed her to the after life.

We must all bury the dead.

Your gravestone looks fresh.

It must be the constant rain 

that keeps the mottled marble clean.

I kneel to place pink heather

in its plastic pot. The florist said 

it would last a long time.

Mother’s Garden

Roses are in bloom again, with all their redolent memories,

trellis flushed pink against blue delphiniums that crowd bright borders.

House sparrows splash in the stone birdbath, carved limestone bowl

set on four grey columns, solid in creased photographs before I was born.

Of course we knew there would be suffering: late frost

kills the apple blossom, the hawk cracks the cuckoo’s neck,

a gunshot or a last hospice breath ends a life and only then

do we understand meaning belongs to the feeling world

that lawmakers cannot bear to inhabit, do not dare to hear

the cries of a caged child separated from the mother, terrorized

by dreams—black robes fly like ravens in the moonless sky.

Yet in the spaces in between, in the rustling of leaves, in the garden

pulling weeds, in the kitchen chopping onions, in the faded 

photographs, in the changing light at dusk life finds us.

Rebirth 

All my childhood in the cuckoo’s song,

frost-tinged grass at daybreak.

The sun marks a path across the stone 

walk to the beech tree: young leaves 

poke from old growth, uncurl 

like a newborn’s fingers.

Do not listen 

to the doubts of old men.

The pear tree is heavy with white

blossoms that shift in the breeze like plumes 

of a goose grooming itself 

beside the canal.

The muscular flap of a swallow’s wings 

guides it to eaves of the brick house beyond

the garden: blue carpet of forget-me-nots, 

daisies dress the grass like yellow buttons

on a baby’s white jacket. From the doorway

I hear my mother calling. 

What Do We Know of Time?

Without realizing it we had begun to feel

the scorching days, ninety degrees in our garden,

would never end.

The houseplants wilted. I sent them out under the portch,

healing Aloe and Peace Lily, hosed them down

in the tarnished copper tray, remembering

a fish restaurant in Wellfleet last summer, pink

popsicles of allium, blue spiked delphiniums, lavender’s

purple haze among corroded metal tabletops

where my husband amused himself squeezing

a lemon, watched as the black surface dissolved.

I poured vinegar onto the discolored planter and waited.

Small bright golden spots emerged then coalesced

to shape what looked like Pangea, supercontinent

that held for one hundred million years.

What do we know of time? Stars survive

millions of years at the edge of spaciousness.

Small stars, our sun, blaze on for billions.

The world gains luster as it falls apart:

Our friend has been told they can do no more

for him, perhaps three months, maybe at most a year.

He is a physicist, aware of relativity, of the slowing

of time as gravity increases, how a moment

in the bright light of morning can expand into forever.

We sit with him in the sun, drink

tea and savor small bites of homemade

chocolate cake, crumbs scatter on the paper plates.

About the contributor

Patricia Hemminger
Patricia Hemminger grew up in rural East Yorkshire, UK and her poems are often inspired by nature. Spillway, Parabola, River Heron Review and Tiny Seed Literary Journal among others have kindly published her work. She is a science and environmental writer and graduate of Drew University’s Poetry MFA program.

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