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Anna Adams (1926  - 2011)

Water Remembers               Worm

         KYRIELLE:  The Song of the Beggar's Child           Wasps' Nest


Water Remembers


When frost draws fishbone and fern on windowpanes,

water is running through memories, tracing forms

like starry mosses, muscles and intricate brains.

                                                            Water has been there.


Thus, as liverwort tongues, it overlapped;

thus it feathered the coalmeasure forest fronds,

and thus it was combed by mermaidens' cold webbed hands.

                                                            Water remembers


bloody adventures as Man, and many deaths

from which it emerged unscathed, as from the fire

water ascends as a ghost and descends as a shower.

                                                            Water reminds us


nothing that truly exists can ever be lost.

It recapitulates its countless loves,

having been present at every winesodden wedding

                                                            and virgin's deflowering.


Water confetti falls on the winter forest,

loading all trees alike with spurious blossom,

heavy as fruit, that bends then breaks the branches.

                                                            Crutches of water


prop every plant in the forest. Making, unmaking,

water is omnipresent and taken for granted;

being, perhaps, mere ambassador, deputy, servant

                                                            of something forgotten.


Anna Adams

in collection Green Resistance,  Enitharmon, 1996

ISBN 1 870612 57 4;

in anthology Hebridean Poems





This drizzle rots white tapes

of wallside snow, thaws out

the earth so that a worm escapes


to probe, with tapered snout,

hard tarmac where it cannot find—

although it gropes about


the way back underground.

It stretches out its span

of pearl-complexioned, blind


and naked gut, grows thin

and long, and then contracts

its length again.


It seems the fool elects

to cross the rainwet road

while ignorant of facts


such as: it is thrush-food,

and there are tractor-wheels.

Misguided annelid,


you seem to have two tails

but one's your brainless head.

Unminded grit-canals


should hide beneath the mud:

why not move in reverse

and thus go back to bed


before your plight grows worse?

Its boneless finger points

across a universe


of road, so, all at once

I seize the creature's saddle.

Convulsed, and lacking joints,


it knots into a muddle

which I set down on grass.

Released from its tight huddle


it burrows.  Soon its arse

waves me goodbye, withdraws

to worms' nutritious house:

the home of both of us.


Anna Adams

in collection A Paper Ark,  1996,

Peterloo, ISBN 1 871471 62 1





The Song of the Beggar's Child


I lie across my mother’s knees

and people, tall as walking trees,

look down upon me where I lie

and look away and hurry by.


I lie across my mother’s lap;

her brown hand shakes the money-cup.

Men hear its rattled lullaby

and hurriedly they walk away.


The music jangly money makes

means bread and soup, potato-cakes

and shelter from the rainy sky.

Men duck their heads and hurry by.


They keep the coins that are the key

to happiness:   sweet mugs of tea

and freedom to stand up, and play:

but hurriedly they walk away.


I learn my mother’s trade.   I whine

“We have no country of our own:

no house, no bed; please sir —” I say

the English words.   They walk away


weighed down by pockets in their coats,

chock-full of money, even notes

whose magic signs could set us free

to leave our pitch and walk away.


I’d go to find the money-mill,

the money-hall, the money-hill

or well:   the bottomless supply

that packs the purses that pass by.


Anna Adams

in collection Flying Underwater ,  2004
Peterloo, ISBN 1 904324 12 6




Wasp's Nest


Beneath our lintel hung a papery breast

nippled with penetrating dark that pierced

the layered curtain of the Queen Wasp’s nest.


Out of this summer palace, princelings flew;

some hunted, some had building-work to do;

the population and the palace grew.


They fetched new wood-pulp, added paper ridges,

and, working backwards along selvages,

turbaned the nest in mummy-bandages.


A cabbage with grey leaves, drilled by a worm:

a pendent dome: a tumour on the beam:

a paper brain that hummed with thoughts of home:


the prison-chapel of a pregnant nun

who crouched in prayer, walled up from the sun,

to bear her thousand children one by one.


Her nursery, inverted tree of pods,

has hatched its hundreds, but the Queen still adds

more eggs, possessed by Summer’s dying gods.


The princes’ number dwindles.   Still tight-laced

and elegant as ever –   isthmus waist

links tiger-bustle to her pigeon-chest –


the venerable Queen within the walls

sits brooding over trays of cradle-cells

where perfect wasps lie dead beneath their seals.


A secret monument to Summer past,

she desiccates in darkness, grey with dust,

killed by the silent treachery of frost.


Anna Adams


previously published in Six legs Good,

Mandeville, 1987 ISBN 870410 02 5

and in collection A Paper Ark,

Peterloo, 1996, ISBN 1 871471 62 1


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