Home PageBook newsExclusive poem from The Flower and the Plough: Bonfire

I love all the poems in The Flower and the Plough, but this has been one of my particular favourites from the start. What I love most about it is the way it captures the sensation of falling utterly in love but leaves it open as to whether this is a good idea. The reader can bring their own experiences to the poem and remember those same feelings with fondness, or want to scream ‘You little fool! Protect yourself!!’

There are so many lines that just sing out and float endlessly around in my head. ‘I’ve got my toes lined up,’ I think when I’m pulling my socks on. ‘When you spit out glass / though you only got sand,’ when someone says something nice about my work. ‘I think it’s worth it‘ pops up several times a day, whether I’m contemplating a matter of the heart or wondering whether to buy some fabric on Berwick Street. ‘Because when I feel the silk / I think it’s worth it / And when I imagine it going with that other silk / I think it’s worth it.

My initial idea for an illustration was a bonfire with a stack of limbs burning away. Then I realised I’m not great at anatomy and also that this would be too literal, as the illustrations ought to give the reader room to form their own interpretations. That’s another thing I like about the poem, though – the visceral, brutal depiction of devotion and the physicality of being in love. It’s hopeful and romantic as well as alarming and far too much, and I just think it nails passion. I hope you like it as much as I do, and do let me know in the comments what you think.

Bonfire, by Rachel Piercey

I have felled
all the trees in my wood
to keep you going,

thrown old faithfuls
and flimsy, startled
saplings into your

hot ears and come-
to-bed mouth.
Then all that was left

was the pointy scent
of gum
and the bellow of an oak.

So I hacked off my hair
with barely
a second thought,

and both ears
were carelessly slung in,
then my thumbs

with their crucial
opposability.
I’ve got my toes lined up

and my unaccountable hips
and my knees
are ready too,

so please
give me more
of your particular brand

of alchemy.
Because when you temper
scraps into treasure

I think it’s worth it,
and when you
spit out glass

though you only got sand
I think it’s worth it.
Because I could

spot you
a mile away
on any frightening night

and when I got there
you’d soften me.
Because I hope

that when I’m down
to just my heart in the open air
you’ll keep it warm.

This poem is taken from The Flower and the Plough, which is on sale now in the shop.