My son aged three fell in the nettle bed.
‘Bed’ seemed a curious name for those green spears,
That regiment of spite behind the shed:
It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears
The boy came seeking comfort and I saw
White blisters beaded on his tender skin.
We soothed him till his pain was not so raw.
At last he offered us a watery grin,
And then I took my billhook, honed the blade
And went outside and slashed in fury with it
Till not a nettle in that fierce parade
Stood upright any more. And then I lit
A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead,
But in two weeks the busy sun and rain
Had called up tall recruits behind the shed:
My son would often feel sharp wounds again.
I won’t go into analytical mode don’t worry but you can appreciate it any way you wish. I just love how something that happens to us on a daily basis can remind us of a poem or a story or a book or even something we read in the newspaper last week. My hand still hurts from the nettles… and I know I will feel sharp wounds again…
Talking of stinging, I was reminded of my favourite poem just as I was preparing dinner. It also ties in nicely with Nettles. My eyes, like my hands, began to sting. I was chopping an onion for our chicken fajitas! Stinging eyes and finely chopping the small, brown onion, I thought of Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy. I first studied this poem at GCSE and I think I used it for assignments at University and occasionally I just like to read it. I still always think of it every time I chop an onion and also every time I think of Valentine’s Day and how love shouldn’t be about presents, alcohol and commercial things. If you don’t already know this poem then I bet you’re thinking ‘Onions and love, whattt?’ Take a read:
Not a red rose or a satin heart
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.
Again, I won’t get my analytical head on but I will say that I love how Duffy experiments with form. Her stanzas stop and start with irregular lines and enjambment used frequently… just like love is so unpredictable and not regular. So ladies, if your man comes home tonight and gives you an onion… don’t be offended and think it is his hint for you to cook dinner… think of it as a moon and a much more meaningful present than anything else. Have I convinced you?? Haha, didn’t think so… flowers are just so much prettier aren’t they?
But next time your eyes sting from chopping an onion or your skin stings with pain from nettles then think of these two poems. It is all about taking that everyday, ordinary object/thing/feeling/situation and making it extraodinary…..which is kind of what my blog is all about!
Tonight, avoid nettles along with that evil exercise and consider that onion as you chomp through your chicken fajitas… I know I will 😉
See you tomorrow,