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The wall

July 15, 2017

Long peace with France had softened us,

but life at home was never still.

God knows we fought, often enough,

and hard, about money, the mill,

your family – everything – until


we wore each other down, and learned

the art of never being where

the other was; and in return

somehow negotiated air

enough to breathe; and layer by layer


we built a wall: on your side home,

the church, community; you made

our children yours and yours alone.

On mine, the town, the milling trade,

the rarest snowdrops ever grown.


No other thrill can match the lurch

of coiled desire I felt each year

as new-bred snowdrop stems appeared,

and promised petals – unshed tears –

in unseen whites and greens emerged;


nor disappointment match my hurt,

that winter every snowdrop failed

to bloom, dissolving in the dirt,

and loosing suddenly a gale

of silence louder than I’d heard.


And then, as though you’d waited long

for this, you stepped across the wall

and stilled my silence, broke my fall,

and gave a plantsman lessons on

the way to shelter plants from storms.



James Allen (1832-1906) – the ‘Snowdrop King’ –

a miller and amateur plantsman, grew over 100

snowdrop varieties in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. But after

decades of intensive breeding, his collection was all but

wiped out by fungal and insect infestations.


A slightly edited version of this was runner up at the Shepton Mallet Poetry Competition, 2017

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