Spring came on a lorry last night
Or so it felt, as we walked through balmy unbowed London to see the English National Ballet’s triple bill at Sadlers Wells. We marvelled at the blossom, we stepped across streets to walk in the sun, and listened to kids playing outside in the squares again. And then there was this lorry waiting outside the theatre…. a ballet lorry!
It was a wonderful evening, but it was the third piece, Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre du printemps, an interpretation of Stravinsky’s work and an astonishing performance by the English National Ballet, that made every hair on my body stand on end. Much as spring itself does. The first sign that something special was happening was when they poured buckets and buckets of soil on the stage, and raked it almost as a performance. (I obviously didn’t take photos during the dancing, but I couldn’t resist one of this alternative ballet…)
And because it’s the week when it felt important to keep on enjoying the simple beauty and optimism of a London that is as much about honey and selling so many different kinds of potatoes as it’s about politics…
… a week when I met a man who makes my favourite champagne (Taittinger, in case you happen to be passing), and when the tulips on my balcony have not quite burst into colour although I know they want to…
… and maybe because of all that, when I sat down with my journal, although none of this is really about a garden, this spring poem came out, and so I’m sharing it here.
Tell me, what does spring sound like?
Stravinsky, the five o’clock bird singing
with relief at the new day, a champagne cork
aimed as true as a young girl jumps into love’s arms,
and our gasps as she’s caught, again and again.
And does spring taste of flowers? Not yet,
it’s the sweetness of clean earth, the ache
of green, a twig shadowy as tobacco bursting
in your mouth with a flavour so clear
it’s like being born, feeling before knowing.
So you can feel it? Always. You’re twisted
into a bubble, a crystal champagne glass,
it’s the pad of a foot fresh pressed into soil,
the clench of a muscle, it’s running across a stage
so fast you’re flying, it’s being let go, held, let go.
But do you smell it? You turn the corner
and there it is, white and heavy, first
communion, first tickle of celebration, first
kiss you feel in your knees, the sweet sweat
on his neck as he holds you still, the surprise of that.
Will I see it, will I recognise it? Maybe not until
it’s too late, you can’t bear to look as a small girl
in a red dress reminds you of every false path
you did and didn’t take, and you hold your breath
until the soil is raked smooth, each year a new chance.