High walls, mute, shuttered windows:
La Cour Bastide
In the shady yard at break
in the hubbub of strange language
others chalked the grid of la marelle
numbered the spaces 1, 2, 3
then halfway L’ENFER
then 4, 5, 6 to the dome at the end LE CIEL
Aiming the stone
we ventured our small attempts with
awkward as geese on bumpy ground
we tried not to land in hell
Throw by throw
words, whole phrases
crept from between the lines
trembled like lizards in the cracks of walls
then flew like the stone from our throats
Sometimes our words drew smiles
as kind as the fig tree
in the box-hedged garden
of Madame la Directrice
–A toi le tour! –A moi? –Oui, oui
Lance ta pierre! Vas-y!
But now you have thrown your stone
far beyond these walls
and I imagine it flying
like one of Andreu’s doves
into that blue
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2010. 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 in 2010 was Jen Hadfield.
In 'Doves, fig tree and walls' two girls are on the brink of being accepted in a new school, finding their way in a new language. The hopscotch grid is more than chalk lines on tarmac, it's a bridge over an abyss. Maybe we always thought it was. Throughout Figure in a landscape, totems of recollected speech and situation are meticulously recalled. When Crowe marks some quotidian familial encounter it's to try and measure loss. If we need poetry to have a purpose, this is one way it earns its keep. Simply, the poems made me long to see my own sister.
I was ten and my sister Rosy eight when we left Middlesex for Marseille, and started at our new school. This poem records our attempts to learn the language we heard around us. Everything seemed exotic – trees, lizards, language, dazzling light – and I felt I came alive in the excitement of shaping my mouth around these sounds.
The poem is from a sequence dedicated to my sister after her death in Mallorca in 2004. Revisiting difficult times, each poem finds inspiration in the ceramics and paintings of fig trees by the Mallorcan sculptor, Andreu Maimó. I translated the poems into Catalan and emailed them to him, thanking him, and they have now inspired a new set of engravings by Andreu, and together form the new book, Paisatge amb figura.