Marsh thistle

A gong sounds in the dark temple of the earth
and now, upwards, the thistle comes.
Nothing sweet about this consonance
of purple clusters, this spray of green swords.
Nothing sweet but every part of it a soul:
rising high above the soft earth between sea
and stream, in the farm’s hinterland.

And what soul is it that embellishes the sky
with battlements and bristling lances?
What part of a human soul is this thistle?
The brave and fearful, lonely, frost-hardy,
short-lived, adamant, stubborn, broken heart
and bold heart and contradiction of spine:
all the wounded, and wounding, glory of enduring,

all the solitude of marrying a place.
Our native Holocene thistle, our unpalatable,
fen-meadow, head-above-the-crowd thistle,
nectar-rich candelabra rampant with bees,
our crackle and frost of threats, our September
wind-bloomed plume of thistledown,
connoisseur of spiny resurrection: it sews

its sons and daughters back into tap-root
in the sinking ground. Alone and fiercely, it breaks
the unmown meadow with its deep rooting
and thistle-intent. This is
the thing done and logged among the reeds,
this is the foot-in-water birth of the place-present.
And then the upwardness begins again.

from Wilder by Jemma Borg (Liverpool University Press, 2022)

© Jemma Borg
With kind permission from Liverpool University Press

Wilder by Jemma Borg
(Liverpool University Press, 2022)

Jemma Borg

Jemma Borg won the inaugural Ginkgo Prize in 2018 and The Rialto/RSPB Nature and Place Competition in 2017. Recent publications include the TLS, The Poetry Review and Oxford Poetry, and anthologies such as Out of Time (Valley Press 2021) and Places of Poetry (Oneworld 2020), and her first collection, The illuminated world (Eyewear, 2014), won the Fledgling Award and the New Writing Ventures Award for Poetry. She was a zoologist and evolutionary geneticist before working in scientific research management in the voluntary sector and in science publishing.