By Stephen Kingsnorth
As a tourist board inspector, the closing hour approaching fast, pottering in the garden centre, I saw another in the crowd - God wandering amongst the shades. At gate closure, the lock-up time, I saw her in the coffee shop, chatting with the sweat-cooking staff, those table-waiting, poorly paid, dependant on those meagre tips. Next day I watched her closely by the display of tools - forks, hoes, rakes, studied as if she knew the trade; at water-garden, marginals - she wanted to spend time with these. Then purposeful she marched through aisles, cacti, bird baths, the flap of wings, bold signs announcing when chez nous and, meeting friends by barbecues, she talked and laughed, cried, spinning tales. Itinerary, the nursery, she seemed to speak with sapling growth; strong tapping roots their long response, as later visits came to prove – foundations outlast flashy tops. Where a clay model had been dropped she, broom-armed handler, cleared the mess, re-directing signs suggesting a favourable wiser route, though better paths, so many thought. The ways of ancient craft for sale, with black cats dancing through the night - the mistletoe, holly sprigs, and popular, always, Christmas rose – apparently, her interest slight. With baskets, the food-hall, pile-lined, top-filled with flat-breads, pittas too; both new and vintage wine for sale - she sat and drank, ate party food, life and soul, if unorthodox. Near the café, with lake-side crowds, its chair-lines organised in rows, were picnic tables, laden, spread; the menu there was bring-your-own - she thanked the lad for fish-paste shared. As she catalogued I observed the seed packs on revolving stand, with germination guaranteed - providing the bird seed is bought, ensuring beak pecks kept away. The seed-bed of receptive tilth - not thinnest soil or pebble-dash, buy potting compost ready mixed! as though John Innes better soil than the good earth and digging turf. The show of spring buds held her eye, and Lenten blooms, the passion flowers, with glowing Easter lilies’ show - without regard for calendar - no longer, waiting, garden truth. At fascination shown, concerned, she noted latest strategies, the air-sniff-flickers of their tongues, in the serpent vivarium, where curling snakes dared twisting trees. Scented candles she avenued, pomanders caught some interest, essential oils, the perfumed stuff; and cards of greeting, get well soon, her smiling, though, brought sooner health. She knew of clay pots, incense sticks, the glass-house shrubs, olive and date, herb rows of hyssop, spices, mixed, crown of thorns, alabaster jars: I saw her tag ‘Head Gardener’. Amongst the Krishna dancing folk with saffron swathes, and gentle sways she smiled upon their cymbal Lord, banyan, peach trees, and Tulsi herbs, winged spindle, each to own their god.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 170 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Academy of the Heart and Mind, printed journals and anthologies. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/