Poems by Brenda Tai Layton

Near The Gate

Here is where we may be greeted
by whispers of wood smoke
from the comfort of Pete’s hut
redolent of coal fires
Janet and John
the BBC Home Service
and steam trains
through Leamington Station.

© Brenda Tai Layton

Old Men Laugh

The Allotment gardens are where
I hear old men laugh together, the unfamiliar
sounds that spray plots with surprise and delight,
around borders beneath the ambience of birdsong,
across barking strimmers, flowerpots, rolls of mowers
and polyglot tongues.

Marco’s cadenza sprinkles his pea netting,
‘When you comma for picka only here todai?’
His laugh-mate on the bicycle replies,
‘I soon come back to finish de shed’
He is creating a verandah, Caribbean style.

As the school bell rings over the road,
against the flap and squawk of signets,
Victor, the Polish war veteran,
smiles at our Mares Tails,
‘I’m 92 years old, older yet than them.’
His plot if a mystery of plants corralled in
the sun-has-never-met greenhouse,
from where, outside, he regales his neighbour.

And Joe who has waited, for more than laughter,
to recite his,
‘Autobiography Of A Welsh Childhood Down the Mines’,
roots the unwary,
while the wiser drift away
to chortle on the far side of spinach patches
as they haul recycled sheds
from plot to slab to slab on plot.

© Brenda Tai Layton


Welcome to this allotment, to these plots,
called Gardens by locals
ancient and modern.
Among acres of effort
fertilised with pride,
yours is this,
for you
top of the waiting list.

Here are days when elder-flowers limbo,
minutes as cormorants soar like kites,
seconds while yours and your neighbours’
thoughts converge on a universe caught
in the magic of spades clumped with soil,
lumped with sweat, merged with drizzle.

Sometimes you may stand arms akimbo,
numbed by the wonders of silence,
the beauty of cooked compost,
the glow in a line of brassicas.
O show your basket of produce
and celebrate
the flow
of waiting lists.

© Brenda Tai Layton

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