Having down the decades grown blasé
at the beauty of our flowering cherry,
its seasonal changes of mood long since
déjà vu, I am knocked for six as a pair
of collared doves crash-land with a flurry
and wreak havoc like two busty floozies
in a millinery store, shooing away shoals
of natty coal-tits and showering petals
on the beds below. Mayhem complete,
they’re off to coo and peck next door,
our upstairs cellist’s domain, who
from her lit eyrie serenades them. Keen
to make the most of the opportunity, I gift
them to you, not in a pie but in this poem.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2022. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor for 2022 was Ifor ap Glyn.
A short series of moments, a comic interlude almost, deftly presented in this poem.
Collared doves are outsiders, (their distinctive call is the bane of sound recordists in period dramas shot on outside locations, as they only began breeding in the UK around seventy years ago!) I loved the image of this pair as ‘busty floozies in a millinery store’. The doves and their slightly surreal dialogue with ‘our upstairs cellist’ (who is she, I wonder?) stir the poet into writing a poem for the partner with whom he shares house and garden.
The simplicity of its vision is appealing and I liked the comic tone- ‘knocked for six’- and of course the humour of the last line, when the doves are shared as a poem, rather than a pie!
Many moons ago the American poet Richard Wilbur kindly gave me permission to use the phrase ‘a gift of doves’, from his poem ‘The Gifts’ (translated from the French of Villiers de l’Isle Adam), as the title of what I hoped would be a first hardback collection. Frustratingly my intended poem gave me the slip, and despite later efforts the appearance of each new volume made me feel more awkwardly in breach of obligation to him; until at long last an unexpected burst of activity outside my study window sparked things off in the nick of time to provide admittedly not the title but the dedicatory poem to a pamphlet then nearing completion. Of added personal significance, the poem’s primary role aside, is my suspicion that it may be the last of many written over the years to memorialise our cherry tree now, sadly, in decline.