An east wind is a sorry thing.
There's worse, he says.
Whin Pitt, Endeavour.
I, too, bend my back, I bruise
With turnips to be rocked back and forth out of their stubbornness,
tetties musty-scented as a bairn's scalp and rough but,
snagging on my thumbs,
a tousie heap among the straw,
rhubarb leaves ample as my best tureen
shade for the cat where he creeps away to sleep,
beans bowing their red blooms
as if sounding out trumpets:
rain squall scudders in from the sea
salt grit in it to rive stalk from root,
scour the cheeks red raw.
We'll not get the better of each other
yet my foot soles forget
hard-turned ridges of the earth I've dug
for further down the toom
suck of the dark.
Spelks of coal, blue
in my man's skin when he comes home,
grow and curl like a vine,
like a thraw
in the vein.
Taken from a sketch map of 20th March 1755 in Northumberland County Archives showing bore holes and mining activity in Black Close Colliery (now Cambois), 'Endeavour Pitt' and 'Whinn Pitt' (sic), in the vicinity of 'Mrs Greathead's Garden'.
'Toom' : empty
'Thraw' : mining term for a fault in a stratum of rock
Pippa Little was born in Tanzania, raised in Scotland and is now settled in Northumberland. Her working life has included writing, editing and literacy tutoring: no longer working due to health problems has been a mixed blessing as it has given her more time to write and read poetry.
She has three sons, a husband, a labrador, and they, plus good friends, give her support and encouragement.
She has published The Spar Box (Vane Women, 2006), which was a PBS Recommendation. She was the winner of the International Biscuit Press Poetry Prize in 2008; Foray, a collection about women reivers, was subsequently published by Biscuit Press.
Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.
Mrs Greathead's Garden © 2009 Pippa Little: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.