Poetry: Three


Susan Watson


On the difficulty of describing a walnut 

Nothing to draw the eye,

only that passers-by stooped to pick something up.

A tangle of branches,

impression of small blunted leaves,

and there was the nut at my feet,

quite small.  Dirt trapped in the ridgings of shell.

And the morning mist was smudging the edges of everything.


I had forgotten that nuts grew in a shell within a shell,

the bruised apple green rind,

then armour with the corrugated lines and roughness

and the join standing up.  Inside,

a precisely shaped shiny husk,

holding the kernel in place.

A walnut crumbles,

but with a slight resistance

though resistance might be the wrong word.

It can sometimes feel dry in the mouth.

The taste is unpredictable and complex,

in the same way as wine.


Then I remembered:

it’s bad luck to share a walnut.

Walnuts are shaped like the lobes of a human brain,

according to Iris Murdoch,

or anyway one of her characters.

But then he did it absently,

he ate the walnut offered to him

by a man who stood for all the dailiness

of evil.  So he became complicit

in whatever wrong was in that world

within her novel. 


A fig tree 

Time wasted her, and often she’d recall

Plath’s image of the woman in the fig tree.

Symbolic figs above, below, before, behind,

to right and left, all purple future lives,

so cracked and bursting, never to fix on one.

There was an actual fig tree in the garden,

a fortieth birthday present, well transplanted,

dozens of hard green pellets every summer.

But never ripened.  She might have syruped them,

conserved them dutifully in a kilner jar.

Always before she would, her small black terrier

snatched them, dragging the branches down,

spat out their pale unripeness on the kitchen carpet,

mangled the faint streaked promise of red heart and seeds.



On the other side of the pane

a portion of the tremendous ash

billows back under hard wind.


The long leaves have the quality

of leaked out light.

There have been so many mornings.


New growth has repaired an old scar

made by tree surgeons.

The gnarled bark resembles a staring eye.


It was a broad corridor

that the old man Casaubon

and his young wife Dorothea

walked up together.