Poetry on Lockdown is a blog series in which writers and Library staff reflect upon poems chosen from our website. They’ll write about how the poem is providing comfort and inspiration during the lockdown. Today, our Learning and Engagement Co-ordinator Hannah Lavery looks at ‘Seeds in Flight’ by Khaled Abdallah.
An ancient woman, who has lived all seasons,
wanders the earth gathering camomile.
Each flower in her apron is a star,
her apron is the sky. When she reaches the house,
she strews them to dry like shells on a beach –
to bring good luck, to whisper the future.
In the sun her tattoo glistens, a star glints
in her golden earring, the camomile dries.
Her hand, hennaed with god’s names,
spun the wool of the flock, embroidered
the wedding clothes, gathers the dried flowers.
But next season, when the future arrived,
it silenced the whispers. She was buried with her ancestors.
And yet as if by chance, as if by magic, as if by a miracle
the camomile grows each season behind the house.
Many seeds have flown. These seeds remain.
‘These seeds remain.’
This lockdown has been a reflective time for me. I have found myself searching out boxes of old photos. Re-reading the books of my childhood; and I have been thinking a lot about my Nana.
On V.E day, I discovered a photo of her in uniform; my cousin had posted it on her Facebook. She was a lance sergeant in India during the war. She came to Edinburgh after and made a life and family here. Many of us on Friday past thought of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, the men and women of that generation – and of ‘the seeds that remain’ as Abdallah puts it.
We were all shaped by that generation. The legacy we still feel. That this pandemic hits them the hardest, those who have lived all those seasons, is so cruel.
I look out on a wood in my home in Dunbar. I am lucky to be able to listen to the birds and I have been comforted by spring coming into its vibrant green. To live amongst old trees and to watch them change throughout the year has taught me, like this ancient woman gathering her camomile, that we don’t always reap what we sow. We are not always here when the future arrives.
My Nana gathered so much, planted it for us in Edinburgh, and we gather her bounty each season, always something of her remaining.
‘Many seeds have flown. These seeds remain.’