Madonna in the mid-Devon Meadows – a poem by Julie Sampson

Madonna in the mid-Devon Meadows 

Lowering her hands from the clouds
she smooths the swathe of her apple-green skirt – 
field-mice scuttle the tunnelling rhynes of her veins,
her eyes are Neptune, Venus,
her belly the Devon meadows lit with glowing wheat,
her hips, the hedges – cicely, wild parsley, bedstraw –
her girdle their green-gold figured brocade.

Unfolding its soothsayers
over the furrowed boughs of oak-leaf lap  
her scroll squirms ants, caterpillars, bees -
warblers and wrens roost in her nooks and 
owls are hooting under Cassiopeia’s gaze.

Here near the stream
the alders
where, following the stranded years when plague 
took its peopled toll
the land heaves 
           full of grief

One whose heart stopped.
One who bled with her last child.
One who lost sight, then
failed to hear cuckoo’s returning call.

Don’t call our names 
our Lady of the Goldfinch,
we, who suppliants at your grounded feet
held our whispered pagan rites
as you rose with sun from the east each day,
don’t remind us of the times we walked 
white brides beneath our wedding arch.

We, who till we went under and became micro particles 
 floating through your dusty air, 
lived for the turning soil at our feet,
breathing the self-choices, stories of our lives 
dandelion seeds, away

No one took the trouble 
to sketch or scribble 
even the limned edges of our lives
back of history’s notepad,
no poet set us down in exquisite verse.

We were driven into the periphery, 
the hart’s tongue undergrowth
of your side-lined hedge,
the hidden inner boles of your unfathomable trees.

   although You and We are One
      We are Gone.

No, don’t tell our names
Dead, our Lady of the Goldfinch, but
speak of blackbirds in the beech field 
those air-blue butterflies 
levitating there above horizon’s east, 

instead call out the irradiating dust,
our Lady of the Candelabra,
watch it rise above our sheep-grazing grass,
our breathing fields, 
our barley susurrating
over the heavy land, where
hares are mesmerised by moon,
and the ladybird creeps from the depths of  her stolen crevice - 
for we, with you, are one with chi in ivy seed, 
in spore of Lady fern.

Julie Sampson’s poetry is widely published. She edited Mary Lady Chudleigh; Selected Poems, 2009 (Shearsman Books); her collectionsare Tessitura(Shearsman Books, 2014) and It Was When It Was When It Was (Dempsey & Windle, 2018 ). She received an ‘honourable mention’ in the Survision James Tate Memorial Prize, in 2021. Her main website is at JulieSampson. 

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