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The Orchard Underground               Weekend People

         Sequence in Jazz           Legacies


The Orchard Underground


Plaster walls creak in temperate weather,

bunches of lavender hang from the beams.

Hands have woven reeds to thatch,

turned willows to baskets, shored up grain

against the river, tamed the myth of storms.


At the door of the house, the spirits of cats

watch over: arrivals of friends, departures of children.

Whoever crosses the lintel will be guided,

by their acrobatic bones, liquid eyes, black tails

disappearing around stone corners

amongst a pilgrimage of shoes.


Outside, the garden slopes away,

above an orchard underground.

Trees buried in shell- grain, oaks preserved

in marshes where they fell, throw up circles

from roots reaching through fossils

to an inland sea that keeps all the drowned.


Loch keepers and Fen children sail in

caves and green tunnels, fish eyes painted

on their boats, with the ghosts of apple men

and their wives, swimming and fishing

to the world’s core.


Not so far to cast a silver net

reach out to touch the grain,

into all the caverns of the earth,

the palaces of trees: and keep them close.


The ash casts a broad shadow.

Flint and chalk shore up the yard,   

moths blunder in across a threshold ringed with light.



*(Magical protection of East Anglian houses, included burying cat skeletons and old shoes in walls)



Clare Crossman

commended, Haddon Library Competition, Unv. of Cambridge, 2006;

from the Fenlight sequence of mucis and poems




Weekend People


On Friday I see them coming back

just as the evening is beginning

and the streets are full of the rush for home.

Doors slam, and there are voices in the garden,

someone plays the piano slowly until late.


During the week the house sits vacant,

almost waiting.

Old garden chairs left upturned

the water barrel seeping.

Nothing that will damage in the rain.


Late at night sometimes I think I hear a flute,

as if someone had stayed behind

unable to let go of the weather.

The gutters gurgle and drain. And

the gate is swinging.


They are putting something aside,

my neighbours, in this windswept town.

Our uncurtained windows are still lives,

plants and lampshades, a cracked flowerpot,

a candelabra burning.


At night the only sound is

the roar  of motorbikes at midnight,

arcing into the next valley.

We keep our distance, and look up.

The spaces and the trees between us, greening.



Clare Crossman

published in pamphlet collection, Going Back, 2003,

Firewater Press;

also in Reactions 2, 2001, Pen and Inc, Univ. of East Anglia





Sequence in Jazz

(for my father)


His Journal might have read:


‘These copper beeches

I hold them in my mind.

I would like to

plant orchards where apple trees can grow’.


All his life in business.

Driving every morning to the office

For meetings in stuffy rooms.

Later I would see him,

Standing in the garden,

Trying to make sense.

As if there was a warmth,

He wanted to claim back,

That he never wished to name.


Much later he’d turn up

Briefcase tightly shut.

Sitting nervously in my cluttered room,

Amongst beads and candles,

We would make the polite conversation

Of passing through.


He left some flower paintings each detail carefully inked.

An old medal from the regiment.

And scratched records:

The Duke and Jelly Roll,

Bringing brash streets

Into an evening room.

Each tune holding

An understanding that

Like a pause in music,

Or sequences in jazz,

Absence can be

The quiet distance for reflection

Before the next phrase.



Clare Crossman

pamphlet collection, Landscapes, 1996,

Redbeck Press, ISBN 0 946980 33 0;

in anthology, The Long Pale Corridor, Contemporary Poems

of Bereavement, (eds Benson / Falk), 1996,

Bloodaxe Books, ISBN 185224 317 1







What would I keep, from now, for then?

Some black velvet lycra,

a pair of shoes from Red or Dead,

some notes on Deconstruction,

James Taylor and Joni Mitchell on CD.

My heirlooms a collection of kitsch, for our

children’s grandchildren to discover

in virtual cupboards which gather no dust.


They may note an absence of gardens.

A fascination with surface.  Textures,

Functional and prosaic,

As if what was had never been.

In the bottom of the box

Our letters will be faded

And the hidden photographs

Melted to chrome yellow.


We’ll be gone. Back to bones.

An old manuscript of coloured image,

unreliable as anecdote, indecipherable as runes.

What was outside the frame,

Dissolved to sepia and salt.

And they might guess:

Possible city dwellers, who lived by water.

Collectors of flat silver squares,

In the last years of whale music,

at the time of the dissolution of the tribes.



Clare Crossman

first published in Mslexia, 1999;

in pamphlet collection, Going Back, Firewater Press, 2003


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