nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘poetry

ghosts are lonely here ….. new poetry collection

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This spring, I began to gather together the various poems I have written over the years. One of my recurring interests has been abandoned buildings and other discarded human-built structures. And now, here is my book of poems about abandoned humanscape … ghosts are lonely here.

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My book is available in paperback and includes 45 poems and 14 of my original pencil drawings. Most of the poems are about abandoned structures in New Brunswick, Canada.

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We live in a time when built landscape is often in a state of abandonment: old churches, old bridges, old schools, old buildings. Add to this abandoned vehicles, abandoned boats and deteriorating stone walls, over-grown roads and decommissioned rail lines, and we exist  in a landfill of nineteenth and twentieth century projects, abandoned to time.  These poems listen to the histories and stories of the abandoned. The poems are sometimes sad, sometimes resentful, always wise.

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To order ghosts are lonely here, click here.

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Have a great day.

Jane

Written by jane tims

September 18, 2020 at 7:00 am

revising poetry

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After a full month of working on my artsnb project ‘garden escapes,’ I am conscious of the passage of time. My deadline is November 1, 2020, and meeting this deadline requires completing the poems and other deliverables.

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At this point (I began on July 1, 2020), I have completed my field work (visits to various abandoned communities), done drafts of 70 poems, placed these poems in seven tentative subject groups, and considered how I will approach revisions. I know I will also write a few more poems based on material collected.

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The subject groups (not in order) are:

  • all that remains
  • my mother’s garden
  • invaders and volunteers
  • the gardener
  • whispered stories
  • a glimpse of history
  • the shape of a garden

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I meet regularly with a writing group known as Wolf Tree Writers. I have read a few of the poems at these meetings and received lots of suggestions. I think the most important suggestion has been: ‘ask yourself, where is the metaphor in this poem?‘ I have taken this idea seriously. I do want these to be poems about communities and garden plants. But each poem has to work harder – it has to comment on some social truth addressed (the metaphor).

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When I began this work, I spent a full day on metaphor, considering how garden escapes would relate to issues or problems we face as humans.  The fundamental requirement for a garden to escape is – it must be left alone to decide its own fate. In our lives this could be a metaphor for:

  • accomplishment – you can write a song, but you have to let it go to see if it will flourish. This applies to the results of various endeavors: paintings, quilts, stories. Collections are a particular type of accomplishment; people often belittle ‘stuff,’ but I think particularly of things passed on from one generation to another (jewellery, books, souvenirs). Like the plants in a garden, accomplishments must make it into the right hands, the right conditions of soil and sun.
  • influence – you can talk to people and try to nurture them, but only time will tell if influences take hold. Some of our influence is directed and purposeful; you can try to be a good teacher to your children but eventually they must leave home and only then will lessons take hold or wither. Gardeners will plant a scarlet runner bean and end up with a lupin; parents can plant a ‘carpenter’ and end up with a ‘financier.’ So much of influence is accidental, transferred by chance. Think of influencers like ‘kindnesses,’ ‘chance encounter,’ ‘place’ and ‘accident.’  Also, ‘influence’ must be abandoned for a while and then re-discovered and the value found.
  • abandonment – the abandonment of children/family can occur in so many ways: adult children lose their parents, children are orphaned or abandoned, parents are left to fend for themselves as they age. Each of these situations can be examined using the metaphor of the abandoned garden.

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So my first duty in revision will be to examine each poem for the embedding of metaphor. Sometimes the metaphor will already be there. Sometimes I will need to add a phrase or line for clarity. Sometimes the whole poem will have to be reconfigured to include a clear idea of metaphor.

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When more substantive revisions are done, I have a revision checklist aimed at detailed revision.

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revision checklist

  1. take out ‘which’ and ‘that’
  2. remove weak verbs (‘to be’)
  3. consider removing small words (‘the,’ ‘a,’ ‘so,’ ‘etc.’)
  4. try alternative words – words to contribute more
  5. exchange words used more than once with synonyms
  6. remove adverbs (many are ‘ly’ words) and gerunds (‘ing’ words)
  7. read aloud – watch for phrases or ideas that ring bells – may make it better/worse
  8. be truthful – when it isn’t right, return to truth
  9. check if singular or plural is correct
  10. consider passive voice – does it drag it down?
  11. check voice (child, scientist); don’t switch within poem
  12. consider end and embedded rhyme – select better words
  13. consider rhythm; count beats/syllables and read aloud to identify cadence errors
  14. for poems written in a particular form, check conformity to form

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All of this is a continuing process. Even when I submit those ‘final’ poems with all their revisions, I may continue to work at poems for years!!!!

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This work is accomplished as part of an artsnb Creations Grant.

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All my best.

Stay Safe.

Don’t get COVID fatigue.

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 21, 2020 at 7:00 am

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Do you love picking berries, herbs, other plants from the garden? I think you’d like my book of poetry ‘within easy reach’ (Chapel street Editions, 2016). It is illustrated with my drawings and contains notes on various example of the edible ‘wild.’ Order it here.

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where we step

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my brother and I explore

the old home place, overgrown

and unused, the house fallen

into the cellar, a sock

tossed into the dresser drawer

but, barefoot not an option

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even shod, we are careful

of our feet – nails, glass, bricks

from the chimney, unease creeps

beneath the grass – we watch for

the water well, covered but

with rotted boards

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hard not to love where we step –

the mint enfolds our ankles,

rose and rosemary, our minds

chives lace our sneakers, fold

flowers from purple papers

lavender leans on the walls

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silver, graceful and wise,

the sage surveys our ruin,

thyme is bruised,

everywhere we step

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Stay safe.

All my best!

Jane

garden escapes: where did they come from?

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When I find a plant in a ditch or roadside where it has no business to be, I wonder how it got there. Of course, the mechanism is usually plain. Some plants have arrived by seed, others by horizontal roots. But how did they get into the garden if that is where they came from?

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This weekend, we found three plants which made me wonder how they arrived in the community where they now grew: bouncing-Bett (Saponaria officinalis), white sage (Artemesia ludovinciana) and harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).

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escapes

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Where did they come from?

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33 bouncing bett cropped

bouncing-Bett (Saponaria officinalis)

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bouncing-Bett, common soapwort

Saponaria officinalis

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pink blur along the road

fills the ditches

perhaps she loved colour

or needed mild soap

to wash delicates

gloves sullied in the garden

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6 Morehouse Corner white sage cropped

white sage (Artemesia ludovinciana)

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white sage

Artemisia ludovinciana

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hugs the edge of the road

a slash of silver

in a matrix of green

perhaps he sought

smoke and smoulder

sacred odour of the smudge

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20 Wiggens Mill harebell cropped

harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

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harebell

Campanula rotundifolia

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in the margins of the road

harebell catches

found among the grasses

perhaps they wished to play

dress-up with lady’s thimbles

reminded them of home

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Be safe, wear your mask.

All my best,

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

August 5, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: learning something new

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The poems I am writing have two dimensions:

  1. consideration of the plant, its names and characteristics, and its tendency to die, persist or escape when a garden is abandoned
  2. consideration of the community or area where the plant occurs

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For the botany, I have my floras: Hal Hinds ‘Flora of New Brunswick‘ (2002), Roland and Smith’s  ‘Flora of Nova Scotia’ (1969) and others. During the project so far, I have learned about three new-to-me flowers: golden alexander (Zizia aurea), dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) and narrow-leaved everlasting pea (Lathyrus sylvestris).

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For the history, I have the New Brunswick Archives site ‘Where is Home?’ which tells when the community was first settled, what the population of the community was in certain years and so on. I also have the Canada Census for various decades and some excellent local histories lent to me by a very good friend.

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For example, one of the abandoned communities we visited was Mavis Mills, north of Stanley. The community of Mavis Mills included a lumber mill and camp, post office and train stop. The community was named by a lumberman for his daughter, Mavis Mobbs. The community had a post office from 1922 to 1928. The 1921 Census shows a boarder and miller, John Mobbs, in Stanley Parish and below his name a mill camp with 31 men.

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Something that puzzled me was the entry of ‘last lumberman’ under occupation, beside each of the 31 names. At first I thought it was a mis-spelling of ‘lath.’ Then I read more about the mill, in Velma Kelly’s book ‘The Village in the Valley: A History of Stanley and Vicinity (1983). After World War I, metal was in short supply. So in 1919, the Mavis Timber Company was contracted to make ‘last blocks’ from rock maple.

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canvas 1921

a screen capture of part of the Canada Census for 1921 … under ‘Occupation’, the Census lists ‘Last lumber for each worker in the mill …

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I had no idea what ‘last blocks’ were, so went on a Google hunt. ‘Last blocks’ were used to make the wooden shoe forms used by shoe makers. From 1919 to 1924, the Mavis Lumbering Company made five million ‘last blocks,’ to be shipped to England.

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Mavis Mills abandoned property

an empty lot in a place in the community where Mavis Mills once stood … the lot is filled with golden alexanders

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Such is the learning from a project such as mine. The phrase ‘never stop learning’ comes to mind.

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Have you ever heard of a ‘last block?’ My great-grandfather, Josiah Hawk, who was a shoemaker in Pennsylvania, would be puzzled about the lack of knowledge of his great-granddaughter!

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shoemaker’s lasts (Source: Wikipedia)

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Note that this project ‘garden escapes’ is funded under a Creations Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board).

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All my best,

staying in as much as possible and staying safe,

Jane

garden escapes: having fun

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I have been working at my garden escapes project for almost a month now. Many of the poems are simple free verse, usually evenly divided in stanzas of four to seven lines, often consisting of regular numbers of syllables. I have also tried some other forms, the pantoum and the ghazal. And most fun of all, for a few poems, I have tried shape poems, using the lines of the poem to create shapes reflective of the subject matter.

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Here is a poem that goes a step further. The shape shows the shape of lupins growing in the ditch; the colours are the colours of the flowers.

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lunpins Giants Glan

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And, a poem about chokecherries, in the shape of the hanging blossoms or berries.

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I will continue to work with these, perhaps aiming to make the poem read sensibly no matter which way you approach it.

I’d appreciate any comments, positive or negative!

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best,

doing my best to stay in my shape,

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

July 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: land use changes

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Last weekend, we explored the area north-west of Woodstock, New Brunswick. The area is very agricultural and rural, well populated and prosperous.

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There were many gaps in the landscape where small farms may have been located decades ago. Today, the area is populated by large farms. Huge fields of potatoes, soybeans, corn and Christmas trees continue all the way to horizon in some communities.

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59 Williamstown

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What tells me a small farming family may have lived in a particular location if there are no ruins of habitation?

1. older trees planted in a regular pattern

2. presence of trees and shrubs not found in adjacent woodland, for example scarlet maple, willow, elm, mountain ash

3. presence of garden flowers on the property or in nearby ditches; for example, musk mallow, yellow loosestrife, creeping bellflower, lupines

4. presence of hawthorns along a roadway; John Erskine (‘The French Period in Nova Scotia A.D. 1500 to 1758 and Present Remains.’ Wolfville, 1975) interpreted the presence of hawthorn to settlers who used the thorny shrubs as a means of fencing

5. presence of apple trees, raspberries or grapevines (sometimes spread by cattle or other natural means)

6. local care of a property, indicating a continuing family interest in a property where an ancestor may have lived.

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7 rte 540 Bellflower cropped

creeping bellflower

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hawthorne cropped

hawthorn

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We found all of these types of evidence. All may be subject to debate, and local knowledge would fill in many gaps.

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homestead

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sugar maple—

nine trees, in three rows

a block of lupin, flowering past

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wind sorts

through leaves, launches seed

and a fox presses through

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sweet clover

heady perfume, landscape changes

even as we watch

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4 Lindsay abandoned lot

a regular planting of maple trees, perhaps evidence of a former homestead

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

abandoned gardens: how they escape

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“… some plants will

persist, some will languish

and die, some will escape into forest,

or edges of hayfields,

roads and ditches.”

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34 Olinville road pink roses crop

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Escape artists. How do those plants we see in ditches and fields get there?

Some move by seed. Some by vegetative reproduction (by horizontal roots or by rooting of a part of the plant).

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lunpins Giants Glan

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A good example of ‘escape by seed’ is the lupin.  The lupin sets its seed in pods.  When they dry, the seeds are launched as projectiles and so can travel quite far in a single generation. 

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28 Olinville road orange day lilies

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A good example of ‘escape by vegetative reproduction’ is the orange day-lily. It only rarely sets seed. It moves along ditches or into other locations by rhizomes (horizontal roots).

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” … its names describe

where orange finds a home:

ditch lily, railroad lily

roadside lily, wash-house lily

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outhouse lily.”

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31 Olinville road orange day lilies

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In New Brunswick, you don’t have to drive far to see an orange day-lily or a lupin.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best.

Staying home,

wearing a mask when I escape.

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

July 22, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: lupins

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In late June and early July, the ditches of some roads in New Brunswick are filled with colour as lupins become the dominant flower.

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Lupins are legumes and enrich the soil with nitrogen. In spite of this, there is an old tale that lupins impoverish the soil, hence the name derived from  lupe,’  the word for wolf.

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Lupins make pretty bouquets but, in my experience, have an unpleasant, peppery smell that keeps me from ever bringing them into the house.

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Lupin has been grown as an ornamental and, in earlier times, as a food source. They are great escape artists and spread easily into the countryside. Some species are considered invasive in Europe, New Zealand and places in North America.

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Lupins along the road

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Lupins do not occur along all roads, but when they do, they may have originated in the gardens of early communities. For example, lupins line the ditches of the road to Giants Glen, north of Stanley, New Brunswick. Giants Glen was settled by the Irish in 1850.

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lunpins Giants Glan

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The Giants of the Glen

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lupins escape The Glen

scramble to roadsides

fix nitrogen

repair poor soil

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fingered leaves like hands

collect the river wind

lean together

work as one

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stand tall in spikes

pink, purple and blue

grey as summer wears

rattles their seeds

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best!

Stay safe.

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

July 20, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: mallow

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Mallow was one of the first flowers I had in my garden back in 1980 when we started our own home. Musk mallow (Malva moschata) has deeply divided leaves, papery pink or white petals and a pleasant scent. I loved it so much, I included it in my bridesmaid’s bouquet when I was married.

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Mallow often escapes the garden to live in ditches and in fields. In his Flora of New Brunswick, Hal Hinds says vervain mallow (Malva alcea) has escaped to the borders of fields in the Woodstock area of New Brunswick. So, I was on the lookout for the flower when we drove west of Woodstock to look at abandoned properties. And mallow was one of the first plants we found, growing in the ditch.

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3 white mallow Dugan road

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3B closeup of white mallow Dugan road

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We also found mallow growing at the edge of cultivated fields.

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60B mallow edge of field BlowdownDSCN1223

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mallow

Malva moschata

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wind-blown and paper

petals transparent

veined, flutter

in wind

the leaves

frayed and notched

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petals, perfumed in musk

pale pink and white

roadside edged

in field-flowers, bedstraw

day-lilies, yarrow and vetch

and musk mallow, garden escape

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to the edge of the field

to the edge of the road

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2B mallow Digan road

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Stay home,

wear your mask.

You don’t have to escape.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

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