I have very little doubt that if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct in England, the heartsease and red clover would wholly disappear – Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1866
Some hearts fracture slowly, a small crack
in the muscle wall deepening over the years,
and the sound of breathing more like sobbing,
as though floodwaters were swamping the airways –
the storms are getting oftener and stronger,
their muster of names those of long-lost cousins
blowing home from overseas, bringing gifts
of biblical proportions and rattling with stories;
we hunch inside our skins, trying not to listen.
But old houses are porous, on a winter’s evening
you can smell the smoke of other people’s fires
through the depleted walls, like bad news drifting in,
a waft of paranoia. Then something we should not
have said flies out of our mouths, a dead word
like bumblebee or heart’s-ease. In the small hours
in flowerless chambers the planet trembles.
Lesley Saunders is the author of several books of poetry, most recently Nominy-Dominy (Two Rivers Press 2018). Her English translations – including the poem that won the 2016 Stephen Spender award – of renowned Portuguese poet Maria Teresa Horta was published in 2019 as Point of Honour (also Two Rivers Press). Lesley was joint winner of the inaugural Manchester Poetry Prize, and one of the winners of the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition 2016/17. Lesley has performed her work at festivals and on the radio, and worked on collaborative projects and productions with visual artists, musicians, composers and dancers, as well as other poets.