Green Beans

by Clare Walker

We two slept long in the green gloaming
Cocooned together in swaddling moss.
Then, springing to our feet, verdant-limbed,
Dancing and spinning on the cold stones,
Two new shadows: Brother and Sister.
They gave us costumes: worn, mildewed weeds,
Or verdigris armour. We played trees,
or warriors, or dragons, for them;
The old ones at the endless table.

One day, we heard a low bell ring
Its slow toll shattered everything.

Into glaring light, we stumbled, dazed,
They had needle stares and boiled-pork skin.
Voices like iron filings in our ears.
The one with the silver cross bellowed
us away. The grey one beckoned us
into her snug kitchen. Brother hid
In the dark cupboard. I watched her hands:
shiny and crumpled, shelling green beans.
The fresh sharp scent. The raw bright taste.

That taste is joy, that taste is pain,
I'll never dance on those stones again.

Each day I ate beans, cool green handfuls.
Then tasted soft bread, razor-sharp words,
My skin burning to salmon-flesh pink.
I met a man with a sunshine grin,
we danced under a glittering sky.
In the dark, Brother grew pale as birch;
Brittle-limbed, with a wilted grey smile.
Finally, he turned to leave, to fall
His dust scattering on the west wind.

In endless halls of shadowy stone
One small shadow now plays alone.

Clare Walker lives in Yorkshire where she is currently training to be a librarian. She is inspired by rumours, faerie tales and many cups of tea. When asked what poem the word "cherry" immediately makes her think of, she replied as follows:

"First of all I think of those songs such as 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Sailor,' which I used to chant while counting cherry-stones. Then I think of Keats' 'Song about Myself' in which a boy runs away to Scotland only to discover 'That a cherry/Was as red' as in England."

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