White Lilac

Leni Dipple

Phyllis Mansfield, 1914 - 1992

i face lilac in the early morning

find a child's voice
answering back
in the lull
before the new day begins

i reply in two tones
like my lilac facing
one more pink
the other quite blue

have you ever looked at lilac?
really looked at its frilly cones
sketched against the sky

and felt it
breathing in
its short but fragrant dawn

beyond my sight
there is another
behind the cedar

but right now
i'm faced with lilac in two tones
pink and blue

and the white can wait
while i hang out the washing

a certain harmony holds good
in my garden
set fair
to meet the spring
and i have plenty of line
a good length
between lilac and cedar
(though the last stretch under cedar is shady)

i love this lull in the early morning
when it is still quiet
and the world sleeps
there is time enough
to sort the load
(washing at night these days is cheaper)

enjoy the garden
and remember
mother's words about economy

'be sparing with pegs
the proper arrangement
of linen on line
the right way to hang shirts
it's best to fold sheets'

do you know of such things?

the daily changes in dress
marking our moods
our seasons
our growth charted by length
and cut
the cloth itself
the way it hangs
displaying our relationship
our inclination

i remember one year
when we girls
wore nothing but green
and men
but grey

best of all i remember the babies' things

so tiny on the line
bigger than pegs
all those cotton vests

and my man
do you understand now
the time it takes?

this transformation
of amorphous bundles
to line
and back

do you respect
the small attentions
our delicacy?

why then
don't you steal out
join me
in the lull surrounding
the mourning garden

pass me the pegs
one by one
and i will tumble you
through words'
hidden meanings
if you
will tumble me
just once more

our half-finished conversations
in tones of pink and blue
then i
will go with you
beyond the winding sheets
behind the cedar

shall we seek
the white lilac?

Leni Dipple

Leni Dipple is a poet, organic gardener and 'wwoof' host (www.wwoof.fr). She has lived since 2002 in south west France, where she has been working her smallholding organically in parallel with an exploration of the local culture via various arts projects.

A graduate in Portuguese and Brazilian studies from Kings College, London, she has chosen to present her poetry in different contexts, including film, radio and land art, as well as in conventional readings and magazines. Priapus Press published a short selection in 1994 and her first full collection will be published next year by Oldcastle Books.

'White Lilac' was written in 1992 for her mother, shortly before she died of lung cancer.

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White Lilac © 2013 Leni Dipple: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.