By Dorothy Baird
The Length of January 2021
This year they extended the length of January.
They did it secretly, covertly slowing down the seconds
so each minute bulged with a tension of collapsed spaces
that pushed against the old precision
like an inner tube about to blow. We didn’t know.
Just wondered why the month dragged so a-da-g-i-o
and why the weeks looked around them
at the heaped up snow that had forgotten
how to melt and dithered when it should be
Thursday but was only Tuesday. It was up
to us to hurry them on, with a night-cap clap
of relief another day had gone. Thirty one days
the Calendar still says. But
we know better.
Not standing in the same river twice
It’s the same window, the same view
she’s seen every day for thirty years.
Most days – in the old normal days –
she skited past it in her rush to be
darting from one place to another, her thoughts
like birdseed in the wind.
Now she’s been given this time
and she’s surprised to see
the wind-sayer in the silver birch:
its fronds blowing east, northwest,
harbingers of mild air or haar
and that her birdfeeders are a drama
of blue-tits and the sometime flurry
of long tailed tits, and the contortions of a squirrel
that could clearly run the country with its problem solving.
And she sees how sweet-peas
curl up their canes like infants
rising to their mother’s knee,
and the sky stages its own drama
underlining – with its clouds and moon –
things always change and every day is new.
He is heavy with morning. As if its weight
has flattened him and drained all his rivers.
He stays in his dressing gown.
She says, ‘Let the countryside go for a walk
inside you. Let the skylark rise and rise
inside you. Turn yourself inside out
then in again, but bring the foundlings
of Black Hill and Capelaw, the rolling heather,
the yellow stars of celandines to light
your gloom. She pauses for breath.
You’ve got sky from your window, she says,
learn to love the sky. It’s enough for
the skylark and the swift. It’ll do you too,
till your feet find the ground again. Sit
by the window and get to know the light.
And if you need to, weep. Weep until all your tears
have flowed. Empty yourself like the clouds
release their rain. Pour your sadness into the day.
It is big enough to hold it.
When you’re all wept out, you’ll be washed
like the coloured saris in the Ganges are laid out
on the shores to dry. Give yourself time.
The day will tiptoe back into you, whispering
endearments, beckoning. Follow it. Follow it
into the white blossoming on bare trees
into the shades of green behind
the tulips, into the heron still and sharp
in the river. Into the absolute second
of existence. You’re alive. Now
what is it you can do?
Dorothy Baird has two collections of poetry published and her work has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. She lives in Edinburgh where she is a psychotherapist and leads creative writing groups in the community. Her website is: www.dorothybaird.com and on Facebook as: Dorothy Baird: Poetry and Writing My work changed from face to face sessions during Lockdown to consultations via Zoom. As Covid restrictions increasingly have impacted on people’s mental health, my work-load has increased. Nevertheless, without a commute and with little other distractions, I have felt that I have had more time to myself and have found walking in the nearby hills (which are accessible from the house) and reading and writing poetry to have been a huge solace and support.