They’re sodden, the lot of them,
leafy, with more than a whiff
of damage,
mottled with history,
dark with grime.

God knows I’ve wanted them different –
less preoccupied, more jaunty,
less handle-with-care,

more airbrushed,
less prone
to impossible dreams, less perishable,

a little more willing
to soak in the sun.

They don’t measure up.
They’re unpunctual.
They turn suddenly tuberous.

But they matter
for their crooked smiles,
their endless distractions,
their sudden pauses –

signs that they know
how green stems twist

and thicken
as they vanish
into the dark,

making their way
through their own sticky vernacular tissues
of mud,

improvising –


*Selected for the 2022 Ó Bhéal Festival*

Directed by Matthew Thompson.

Arundathi Subramaniam, When God is a Traveller (Bloodaxe Books, 2014).