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View from the Ark

I wrote this poem at the end of February 2020, when 200% of the average rainfall in the UK in February had fallen. It seemed like the rain would never end.

Now, when many of us are sheltering, it seems like we are in our own arks of a different kind, physically isolated, adrift on a sea of uncertainty. There is that longing for a rhythm for these broken days and 'a regular pulse and beat to our days'. Let us hope that we make landfall soon, and that we can enjoy a summer.

The poem is in the form of a sestina, where the end words are repeated in a particular pattern - the form itself an expression of the regularity and rhythm that we long for a return to.

The picture is of an olive tree in France, reputed to be the oldest tree in France, at approximately 2000 years old. And yes, this is all one tree!

View from the Ark

This year without a summer I longed for the sunset scent of wild roses, the smoothness of bladed grass, as we floated on ever higher rain. Inside the boat, lit by the rich oil of olives, we marked with a scratch of knives the days.

We sought a rhythm for these broken days. We told stories of past summers, the celebration of the harvest of olives and vines, before the clouds rose, before sky and earth were filled with rain, when we could still lie on grass.

We’d collected what we could of grass, to feed the animals, praying for it to last these days suspended on these mountainous rains, not knowing when we’d feel the skin of summer again, or watch a bud break open to joyous rose or hear cicadas vibrating, darkening the olives.

We’d left behind the trees, taken with us olives, these fruits shared, dropped down on the grass, from which it seemed our civilisation rose, gifts to nourish and illuminate our days, to feed us with the taste of summer as we now lived in constant damp of rain.

We wondered if there’d be an end to rain, if waters would subside. Then the olive became our hope, the branch proof of summer returning, that life would spring back, like grass, that birdsong would once more fill our days, that a lover could offer again a rose.

The new songs in our hearts rose calling back the cycle of dry and rain, and a regular pulse and beat to our days, when we would gather in groves of olives, inhale the sweetness of meadow grass, and know an autumn, winter, spring and summer.

Will they return? Days edged with rose, summer watered by a gentleness of rain, to feed roots of olive trees and waves of grass

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Olivia Sprinkel
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