Stuart A. Paterson

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Grez-sur-Loing 20-11-14

These are not the woods I’m used to. Here,
trees are polite, straight & slim, stand yards
apart in tall respectful gatherings,
give each other room, thin arms held high
to let you pass beneath an ever-present
canopy of sky, conduct the pulse of
Autumn’s heartbeat, leaves
expiring quietly as they kiss the ground.

I’m loath to make much noise myself, aware
of scutterings in thin undergrowth,
sudden ducks & dives of things going about
the fearful business of tiny lives,
a distant, constant murmuring of water
neither near nor far, occasionally a dog,
muffled yelps of disaffected youth, a cough of car.

No birds sing, not a one, a thing I find
quite strange & stand awhile, wait, think
perhaps I’m wrong, that maybe I’m the cause
of held collective breath, they’ll start their song
after I’ve gone, but no, there’s nothing,
not one chirp or screech or warning note,
no thuggish chattering of sparrows, soft-called
beckonings of cushie-doos, yap of magpies,
explosive blasts of terror or surprise.

Woods without birdsong – like reading of Stevenson
walking to Grez from Barbizon,
a film of images gliding across the silent
stage of thought, his words, his very footsteps
sent scattered & panicking into history’s
heavens by a single, hopeful shot.

Stuart A. Paterson was born in 1966 and brought up in Ayrshire. He received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 1992 and a Scottish Arts Council Writer’s Bursary in 1993. He founded and edited the international poetry and prose review, Spectrum, from 1989 to 1996. Stuart’s first collection, Saving Graces, was published by Diehard (Poetry Scotland) in 1997. His work has also appeared in many anthologies, including Dream State: The New Scottish Poets (Polygon), A Year In Poetry (Random House), Scottish Literature in the Twentieth Century (Scottish Cultural Press) and The Forward Book of Poetry (Sinclair-Stevenson). Stuart moved to Manchester in 1998, where he was involved in running writers’ groups in the mental health sector & in schools. He returned to live by the sea and write in Galloway in 2012.

Read more about Stuart's experiences on the retreat.