My allotment has offended the town clerk.
He sees what I cannot see.

Here is a carpet frayed, against a broken fence and
here are blackberries, blackened, frosted, unpicked
and hanging stiffly, little beautiful deaths.

He says, rats live under the carpet, and I say, no, there are no rats,
only a slow worm there since last March, and I lift the corner
of the carpet to show him the pewter spiral, slow in this cold air
but he spins away, unwilling to see the marvellous snake
I have magicked up, the rat-eater.

He finds the apple tree too high, the grass too long;
the edges of my paths offend him, they are wobbly, indistinct.

So I tell him about the juice of the apples, how
they are an unknown late variety, how they hang in the tree
till November, how the flesh is very dry and white
the skin turning to a buttery paleness like the sun,
flecked with pink and gold
and the juice is a sweet froth on my lips.

He says, I hate these allotments.
The noise of the road never ends.

I see the sound of his words sinking
into the black earth, the long black mounds,
the soft rows of beds. I want to say come, lie down
here in this soft bed and I will cover you
with the yellow leaves from the plum,
red leaves from the vine; you will smell the strawberries,
you will see how blue the sky can be.

I can no longer hear him, I can no longer
make out what it is he wants me to do.
I gather the last fruit into a pile, one marrow split with waiting,
dark kale, bright parsley, ripe beans,
and it’s then I see the bee, dozy,
falling out of a dying mallow and I think I’ll tell him
about the bees, how they are lost because
we have taken away their safe passage
between one place and the next.

Sally St Clair is a writer, biographical counsellor, mother to three and grandmother to two. Her work has been published in Stand, Panurge and Wasafiri, among others.