Poems · Thoughts

The Poplars, the Moon, and the International Space Station

I’ve spent hours trying to capture the twilight. But how can I? It’s impossible.

I’m a terrible photographer. It probably doesn’t help that my camera was purchased for £50 on the ferry home from Spain a couple of years ago. But I know absolutely nothing about the technicalities of taking pictures, and I am not inclined to edit them on Photoshop or something similar. These are all excuses. How can my blurry photos ever capture my concern?

My mother calls the poplars ‘storybook trees’. They are a welcoming beacon peeking out from behind our house. They are never still. Even when the wind turbine across the valley is resting, the poplars cannot resist fidgeting. Each leaf is independent of all the others, they are free spirits, they all move in different directions.

We will lose the poplars soon. The sad fact of the matter is that they’re too dangerous, too close to the houses, too likely to drop branches when it’s not safe. I fought and fought for it not to be true, but they’re too capricious, too wild for me to tame. They won’t bend to our desires, they’ll only bend in the wind. We must kill or be killed. Either way, they will freefall. They’ve betrayed me, I suppose. The temptation, I find, when anticipating loss, is to do something, or try to. So I’ve done nearly all that I can. There’s only one task left, and that’s to finish my record.

So I’ve been making half-hearted attempts to photograph them for years (since the saga has played out for years), and this is within an ongoing longing to take pictures in these ubiquitous between-times. Every so often, I’ll notice the sunset, compose something in my mind’s eye, and then I have to whip my camera from the drawer and try the best I can. My computer overflows with blurry black and blue. I am fascinated by twilight everywhere I go. My banner for the home page of this blog is Spanish mountains that I couldn’t quite reproduce. A big part of my interest is in the silhouettes, which seem to particularly haunt me when I’m grieving. The silhouettes distracted me during the dawn that inspired my poem ‘Primroses’, driving home from the loss of my favourite aunt, one of the most wistful and strange nights of my life. And for another example, here is an excerpt from an unfinished poem I wrote last December, after my granny’s funeral:

I noticed a man and a dog on the shoreline
A black setter, so black it looked like a dog-shaped tear in the fabric of the universe.

It loped in the shallows
While the man walked on the sand.
It would hurry on a little way,
Then look back at him eagerly,
But he wouldn’t call to it
Reach for it
Or throw a stick for it
They’d just stare at each other awkwardly
For a second
And then the dog would go off again
For a little way.
He didn’t know what to do with it
It probably wasn’t even his dog
He’d been adopted by somebody else’s tear in the universe
Always running ahead of him a little way.

Because that is the thought I always have: tears in the universe. Holes in the sky shaped like trees, or electricity poles. If I could get up to them somehow, reach through, perhaps I could step into another world entirely, one where there is no grief and no pain. Of course, that’s naive. There may be another world, but pain is always certain. Terrible things happen to everyone. It gives us the tools we need to enjoy the good in the world. Perhaps it is fortunate that the dog keeps running away.

I think it’s the International Space Station, the little light in some of my backgrounds. I could be wrong. It could be Mercury or Venus. It doesn’t matter really. Be it satellite, planet, or star, it’s magnificent. It tickles me that I can see such great things from my garden. You are, of course, supposed to wish on the first star you see at night. Most nights I forget, especially when I’ve been going outside every evening. This does not matter, because my wish has been the same for months now, so the space station already knows that I just want to get better. And I am, so it must be working.

I’m fed up of people dying. I’m fed up of things changing. But life will always be change. It breaks my heart, but I think I can cope now. I think my heart will always be in tatters, and always be whole. Is it too much to hope that the moon will still always be here?


Anyway, here are my blurry offerings, with which I am unreasonably pleased:


Walking on Southport pier, winter 2012, after great nan’s 100th birthday party.



Picos, Northern Spain, summer 2013


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Views of poplars, silhouettes and sunsets from my garden in Cornwall, spring 2012.


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Similar views, including the moon and the international space station, June 2015.


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