Evenings in early summer | Rosemary Appleton

and here we are by the water but not the scenic part, not near the tourists – we are lying under the trees, so far from the path that we freeze if we hear footsteps or people’s kind-voiced dog calls – we freeze because we’re half undressed in an oak tree’s dark shadow – half undressed because, although we have a marriage and a faith against us, we still seem to fall into each other, almost angry – and our time is fierce, a rough striving in the half light –
and here, decades ago, go my grandparents, walking home after the evening meeting, along this selfsame path, their Bibles under his arm – they are courting, stepping close through the water meadows reddening in the evening sun – her cotton skirt brushing the cow parsley’s white pepper flower heads – pausing at an oak, enjoying their proximity, they look into the darkening water and sense its contentment, its slow, sure swell.

Writer’s Commentary

In Evenings in early summer I describe different generations spending time in the same geographical place, where some physical, geographical things are constant, like the oak tree and the presence of water, and some metaphysical, cultural things change, such as each generation’s performance of intimacy. The waterside setting seems to reflect my concerns in the poem because the presence of the water is constant, though the water itself is of course moving through the years. I was also contrasting the calm certainty of a pre-war heterosexual, conventional relationship with the more ambiguous, maybe illicit, contemporary pairing described in the first part of the poem. The form of the prose-poem seems to lend itself to the snap-shot brevity of the two moments.

Rosemary Appleton writes in the wilds of East Anglia, fuelled by coffee. Her work has appeared in Mslexia, The Fenland Reed, Spontaneity and other places. She tweets @BluestockingBks

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