I can’t explain it in any other terms, she said, waving her hands in front of her and gesturing at the trees. I can’t read the papers any more. I can’t watch TV. I know what’s coming. It’s like this every time. Whoever wins out, it will be the same. We’ve still a month to go. And then here, this morning, it hit me. The nettles are coming up, those little purple flowers dotted around. And there’s this stench. It’s meant to be spring but something already smells of decay. Breathe in: can’t you smell it? You know what’s coming.
She is the daffodil girl with the golden hair. She is here in the spring, telling us to slip off our winter coats. She is warmth and smiles, turning her face to the sun and the coming summer. She brings tales of childhood and hopes for the year ahead. I sometimes think the garden grows for her, because of her, in need of her. If in autumn she is nowhere, remember she’ll be back – glimpses of her come like a miracle even in the ice of January. She is always there; beneath the seasons she is constant. She is life.
Oh this spring has been ruinous. These reflections, thoughts! And then heating up yesterday’s leftovers of stew, listening to some millionaire on the radio, distracted by the garden’s bare earth and stunted buds. I got a text from friends on holiday earlier: the sun had come out and they had gone swimming. Here there are flurries of snow again. Tomorrow will be the same. We are becoming desperate. We do not know it but we are.
‘There’s only so long a coat keeps out the cold.’ It was all dad said as finished his pint and returned home to sleep.
The stock exchange has declared that trading will be suspended until Thursday. The parliamentary vote on the bailout is being postponed. The man in the shop was in tears this morning; the shelves of his grocery almost utterly bereft. Across the town, cashpoints are running out of notes every ten minutes. Queues are restless, fraught. A military plane carrying a million in cash flew in yesterday evening as part of contingency plans for foreign nationals. At least some people will get to eat.
Back at the hotel it still feels warm enough for a swim – but the water is icy.
There is a queue spilling from a greengrocer’s door into a gentrified street. The customers are affluent and wrapped up in tweed and heavy knits. In a pub round the corner the rugby has just finished. The landlord kills the screen and the afternoon’s drinkers begin to disperse. Everyone goes home to cook or order something in. Drink.
Oh this spring has been cold. My neighbour says that if they don’t feel the warmth of the sun, narcissi grow up blind. They rise, look strong, but never flower. I think of this sometimes when I watch the wealthy at play.
The rains of spring have lasted a year. I hear that in some areas now there are only showers, or perhaps someone said light drizzle. It was always too optimistic to think the rains were seasonal. It would take a decade of downpours to drench this scorched earth.
But the rains come and come: wave after wave of them across from what once might have been a horizon. Now it is just a fog of tears and smoke. And endless deep.
The wet blows through the broken windows, seeps into the khaki, runs down my chest, pouring even as we sleep.
Their little hands reaching out into the sunlight and clear
Clutching scrunches of silver and white, like crumpled tenners, scores –
Unfolding the mottos of fortune cookies, notes of remembrance, promises
Made one to another, they to us, winter to summer.
The first gesture of the year is an embrace changing
Studded green to garlands of cream; an offering, deal, dowry
Of the newly prosperous, a show of intent, soft pride
That slow months will leave unrequited as the yellowings come.
Petals strewn on the breeze, again. The earth cracking beneath.
Hollow human laughs and the blossom long gone, branches bare.