Artwork: Lucien Pisarro, April, Epping, 1894

The last in a set of poems entitled Lovers’ Quarantine

‘April’ provides a synthesis of all the imagery in ‘Lovers’ Quarantine’ in describing exile and obsessive categorisation, shown through allusions to the life of Vladimir Nabakov, as a response to quarantine. ‘Lovers’ Quarantine’ ends, however, with the optimistic emblem of renewal and reliability of nature: a window full of daffodils.

by Fred Baxter


It is April,

Green with celery groundmists,

With earth’s bleary cysts that burst

To throw up a winter’s work

Of murky crossroot strategising,

And he has packed his bag,

Stuffed the bleeding memories

Behind the magnifying glass

And the books to fill five languages,

Slung it over his back

With the sounds of scuttling knives

And bustling wives

With their murderous assortment

Of kitchen accoutrements,

His best boots on his dewy toes

And a tap dancing daffodil

Pinned to his chest.

So he had stolen a fistful

Of stardust for that bag of his,

Crept about the night

With a flying ladder and a fishing net

And sneaked through the window

Before the latch could cluck midnight,

He had sampled pond water,

Trapped it in tiny labelled jars,

Had collected a forest colony

And categorised it in a rich taxonomy,

Played the saxophonist

Among the elders

To lure the songbirds,

And took their voices too,

Balancing their chirping aubade

Of matutinal coloratura

In the nook of his hand,

And had swallowed it

With one heavy gulp.

Now he is walking and singing

With that swallow in his throat

As he passes a smiling window

With an explosion

Of cavorting yellow at the sill,

And winking back at the assorting hellos

On the hilltop, he walks over the sty

And down the mountain,

Round pouncing pasture

And gritty hidden fountains,

Hill and vale marble-pale sailing

Through chuckling woods

And half-full rivers

Where he washed his baggage

By brooks whistling

Under sky’s thread-star, 

And everywhere he went

He would lay a springing spoor

Of every flower’s ringing lore,

A trail of glass vials

And shattering butterflies

Shot through the heart,

In the one golden line

Of his journey.

And when the memories start

Tumbling out, unseamed

By jostling hogweed or

Skittish hollyhock,

Of fingers in moondusk

Or their touch,

or dual sundozing; when they

Fall with seeds and berries

And weeds and harrying dandelion

In his mapped-out golden line,

Red snow-hands, or words

Exchanged with sun-peeling feet

On glittering dough-sands;

When the silent holdings and moldings

Of the hearts like honey

To set in a jar start scattering

And the eyes’ nets and regrets

Appear on the ground,

Threaded between skeins

Of larkspur and cow parsley

And damselflies buzzing

Warm-up exercises,

He knows it is time to return

To hearth and candlelight,

To bellowing church bells

And to a window

Growing daffodils from the sill,

And return to a face smiling

Just for him

Among a flurry of yellow.

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