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The Goddess of the Garden,

unfinished sculpture by Caspar Althaus,

photograph by Rebecca Althaus

Burying Your Body

A collection of poetry set within a Victorian walled garden. The poems explore the themes of love and death intertwined with the physical landscape of the garden and the body. Relationships with family and friends are examined in the fallout of illness and death; the question asked of how or if new life is possible for the one left behind.

What the judges said about 'Burying Your Body'

in The Poetry Business 2021 International

Book & Pamphlet Competition:-

"This memorable sequence is an intense, moving, and meticulous account of a lover's death from cancer -- narrated with tender and visceral attention to detail, no feeling spared. Every line feels true and bone-sharp. It's full of the grit of grief with lyrical shots of rapture. A truly engrossing read." - Pascale Petit

"What makes this moving, haunting collection so impressive is that it reads like a verse novel that we move through with the dread of impending loss, the tremors of nightmare, and the daily frustrations of patient and family. The formal directness captures the pathos, the anger and the abiding love in a shining and shocked collection." - Daljit Nagra

The Worship of Your Body

The first time you undressed for me, your
cock stood hot and straight, its end sexy
as a bud, and I could have cried at the beauty.

Your legs were sleek, starkly hairless
from long ago sunburn, ending in b
one-fine

ankles and steady feet, toes curled
and crabbed by a life in workman’s boots.
Your hands long-fingered, their backs
full with blue-green veins, their
palms covered with hard circles of skin —

hands made to take up a chisel
and carve a block of stone. Your
weathered arms, sculpted sinew, black hair

from elbows to knuckles, rooted in
their shoulders by hard muscle, lean white ovals.

And oh, your back, I’d die
to lie pressed against it. I remember
the sparse covering on your chest growing
its way densely down to your belly, your belly

where I’d lay my hand in the warmth
of its fur — soft fur on ridged flesh —
then rub my face against it, inhaling
its musk, knowing there couldn’t be more

happiness than this. Your neck coarse-grained

and red, harbouring old sweat
in its pores. Your face like a saints, open

goodness centred by the hook
of your Swiss nose, eyebrows untamed
brush. I could never fix the colour

of your eyes, mutable green with hazel with

amber, glinting a mischief which
corresponded with your smile — crooked teeth

stained by roll-ups, lips softly feminine,
kissing mine with tentative questions.

The Garden in January

 

 I am undone by sap stirring.

I light the burner, make lemon tea,

wander the room in the barely 

light, the sky through the glass

a backdrop of dark, revealing 

blue, for ash, beech, wild plum 

standing skeletal, and I think of you 

laid in the orchard, feet 

pointed to the east. You loved 

this time of year, the feel of spring 

rousing: snowdrops, the green shoots 

of daffs, birds singing for mates.

 

The sky comes on paling 

a white-blue for the black trees 

and the dawn. I take the chamber-pot 

outside to the compost heap and find

the world is frosted, the grass 

brittle-ice under my boots

so that I leave a course of footprints.

This time next year I won’t 

be here. I’ll be listening 

to other birds singing 

from strange trees and strange 

people will be walking in our garden.

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