Rosemary and Rue.
Recollections of a Forest of Dean Childhood
The Blue Jay's Feather - 1980.
I walked the woods of home - it only seems
But yesterday. And yet near fifty summers
Must have passed since when, on chubby legs
I strove to run, not wishing to be left too far
Behind my brothers. For all about us loomed the trees,
Dark and immense, tall as cathedral's tower,
With witches' fingers pencilling a curse
Across the cloudless blue of summer sky.
Sometimes we tarried by the way, gathering the tiny
Yellow stars of tormentil, the blue jay's feather,
Perhaps a pebble, or a snail's shell with its
Marbled convolutions; trapping the noisy bee
Within the foxglove bell, chasing the brimstone
Butterflies, stripping the pithy rush's stem.
We picnicked by a shady ride near Kensley,
And Cinderford seemed endless miles away:
Thick slice of crusty bread with red jam spread,
Cold tea in Father's blue enamel flask
(no work for him in deep dank mine today,)
The lardy-cake home made, bursting with peel and currants -
A simple feast, brought hence in blue checked cotton bag
Whose string had cut a weal into our necks.
Oh! We were happy then! Tomorrow was another day,
Tonight we'd sleep content, clutching in sunburnt hand
The blue jay's feather.