In my new book, I have two poems called Clearing. ‘Clearing’ is a word that fascinates me. It’s a way of making space, letting in the light, clouds parting to permit the sun’s warmth. It’s the poignant emptying of a house no longer occupied, and the current fad for minimalism. It’s playing god in the garden, deciding what can grow and what must perish.

After what was, for me, in spite of everything, a glorious summer of long walks, garden gatherings, music and swimming, I became ill in September. On the ward, two words kept echoing in my mind – ‘gentle’ and ‘kind’. Sometimes, I heard them as descriptors, sometimes they were silent pleas. Not all nurses are angels.

When I came home from hospital, I immediately picked up one of my most treasured collections, Going Gentle by Fiona Owen, published by Gomer Press.

That beautiful cover image, Francis and the Turtle-Doves, is by Greg Tricker.

The poem that keeps calling me back on this reading, is Clearing. It is quite long, which I value, as I’m losing my tolerance for the fragmented world of sound-bites. It has a subtle soundscape and compelling musicality.

Fiona’s poem is about many things but for me today, it speaks mostly of the need to heal, not just our individual selves, but the world around us, especially the more-than-human world of creatures, plants, rivers and woods. Nothing stands alone. The rivers are in us. The fly-tipped sofa is ours. We are the boys throwing coke cans. Snow will come to sanctify us. We do what we can, and, yes, it’s a time for singing.

My warmest thanks to Fiona for her friendship, and her poems which touch on the miraculous, and permission to reproduce Clearing here.

Apologies for the odd gap in the middle. You can imagine turning the page there as you slowly read it aloud! Blocks and paragraphs kept doing strange things to the line breaks when I typed out the poem, so in the end I resorted to images.

Later today, I will go and pay homage to the beautiful River Stour that braids its way through the very beating heart of Canterbury.