by Olivia McCannon

Or so it was always said and because
That needed testing I set to: hacking and
Extracting lashing stems that ripped
Through soft leaf, light-stealers slid
Between slim trunks, digging out
Ineradicable roots with grunts, my mind
All night struggling to unlearn the shape
And rule of thicket and bramble –

Ravenous twists and grasping turns
Always everywhere before you, so that
Being fool enough to come near, alone
Was enough to land you a slashing, and
The bramble would be blameless, the fault
Was yours, you brought it on yourself
The bramble could not, being nature,
Be anything but thorns. Thorns, and

Besides the unremarkable leaf and flower,
Promiscuous fruit, a company of
Pouched black blood, offering itself
Up to secure your usefulness. Well,
What were you thinking – that you
Could use clippers and loppers to make
This thicket of yours disappear? Not in
This soil. Not with those blunted tools.



Olivia McCannon’s poetry collection Exactly My Own Length (Carcanet/Oxford Poets, 2011) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize and won the 2012 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. She lived for nine years in France and her translations include Balzac’s Old Man Goriot (Penguin Classics, 2011), contemporary poetry and drama.