Two Poems

By Helen Boden

The Geometric Shelter-Belt Dance

Learn new versions
of out-and-back
circular daily walks
localised footfall
from-the-door exercise.

Step aside, swerve and greet.
Judge, be judged
greet and swerve
and judge those
who do not observe

at-least-two-metre spacing
along the broadleaf rigg.
Drop into the ditch
when someone’s up ahead.
Step aside, wait, step in, turn.

Passing places, pausing places.
Distance – they aren’t your partner –
as you pas de deux along the verges
take sides across the incised channel
of a modified watercourse.

Graphing the green belt,
paths turn right-angular,
grid the ancient farmland.
High-voltage powerline
intersects overhead

draws a hypotenuse
across the woodland axes.
Cables chart the power grid,
pylons plot the National Grid
punctuate our rights of way.

Woodside and forestside
wallside, lambfieldside.
Eastside, westside
heath gate, farm gate,
lefthand, right. This quadrille

is our new daily drill
set to the call of goldcrest, of stonechat
to the slow greening of oak and birch
where the southwest starts
to depart from the firth.

The Charm of the Leith Plateau Farmland

Imagine an inland coastline,
and inhabiting its hinterland:
the visible circumference
from Black Hill to the Cairns,
Auchinoon and Kaimes,
as a small fertile island,

Buteland near its centre.
Be its walker in residence,
daily inhale eilean stillness
gorse-scent, timber-scent
as if the distance along from
the road end to Leithhead

and the seaview across the sill
over Haughhead and Whelpside
contained a substitute Rousay,
replacement Canna or Rhum.
Let fieldside verges, forest lanes
fulfil a need for periphery

a casting-off at each turn
out of town, uncoiling until
you reach an interior
of plausible machair,
in a permitted extension,
– observing the spirit –

of daily-exercise limits.
Notice how the same conditions
that have made head-waters
audible in the channel scraped
by the glacial Water of Leith
enable increased visibility –

peaks clear eighty miles north
of this insular sanctuary.
This lockdown-amulet:
curative, protecting, beneath
the Pentland source of the burn
that will feed into the firth.

Eilean, island (Gaelic)

Helen Boden is a writer, educator and editor. Widely published in poetry magazines and anthologies, she also collaborates with visual artists to make responsive poems which have appeared in artists’ books and pamphlets.

At the start of lockdown I was unable to write, but would read others’ poems aloud while out on permitted daily exercise south-west of Edinburgh. Then these new poems came out of my repeated walks on a grid of shelter-belts, dating back to the 18thC; and around the lanes beyond the Balerno village and up to the source of the Water of Leith.

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[…] poems about local lockdown published here: and here. I am also a contributor to Beyond the Storm – poems from the Covid-19 era – proceeds […]

Simon Thompson
Simon Thompson
3 years ago

Geo-Metric – I liked the interweave between ‘good’ nature and the humans dealing with the repercussions of ‘bad’ nature – the virus

Helen Boden
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Thompson

Thank you – yes, all those intrigung and impossible interweavings. . .

Poetry and Covid-19 ARCHIVE (This website archives the over 1000 poems submitted by over 600 poets, and viewed by over 100,000 from over 125 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020-June 2021). Thank you to all who took part in the Poetry and Covid project.

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