Maggie Butt


We are peasants, toiling in a book of hours,
four hundred serfs with meagre strips of land
backs bent to digging, weeding, harvesting,
hearts slowed to medieval grace, at last a flowering
acceptance that days will stretch to seasons
whether we rage against our fate, or not.

We count in older ways, a seed for each imprisoned
man; hold conversations about rain and soil,
varieties – the early or the late, a Dutch hoe
or an English; covet seeds like gold in twists
of paper; our cuttings hoarded, traded, swapped;
the land which hates us, blooming in our hands.

We have a purpose now, the slop-free carrying
of cans of water, tucking in the seedlings
watching over them like children. We grow gifts
of vegetables or flowers to give on visit day,
the taste of fresh picked peas, the currency of crops,
the bud and root of unexpected peace.