Sam Smith

Meanwhile in Pontefract Castle... & Tin

Sam Smith

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Meanwhile in Pontefract Castle...

...Continuing to hold to the belief that because he is heterosexual he 

should be brutish and insensitive, kill all his enemies, Richard II 

nonetheless loves flowers. A love that takes him in mufti - leather 

apron tied around a borrowed smock, oversize cowl flapping about 

his face - daily to the castle gardens. Where, no sooner arrived than, 

he adopts the slow, seemingly pensive, walk of a gardener.

Albeit uncomfortable with his royal presence - having been told not 

to bow, and warned not to become familiar - the castle gardeners 

have got used to his being there an hour or more, make no 

complaint, don’t even grumble among themselves. They are after 

all being spared any task the king undertakes. On his royal knees, 

for instance, dibber in hand, planting out brassicas. Richard even 

seems to take pleasure in the ratchet-creak of his joints when 

straightening, remarks to an uncomprehending landlocked yokel 

that his knees sound like the boards and beam of the royal yacht, 

“When negotiating, as I regally am, choppy waters.”

One of Richard’s favourite tasks that summer is walking backwards 

down the rows of gladioli while rhythmically sliding the hoe blade 

just below the soil’s surface. Not that he has a penchant for big 

flowers. If he does have a preference it is for the smaller, for the 

overlooked ordinary - the bravery of celandines daring to be yellow 

first every year; or, in the woodland grotto, the languishing sorrel; 

and, assiduous as he might be with the hoe, he will spare, if his 

gardener’s conscience lets him, the blue-and-pink speckling of 



Passed by on those country roads that dip and curve

along moorland’s edges, low village halls seemingly remote

with sides and roof of ribbed metal sheets a faded green.

Out front a patched and pitted parking space, gravel rough,

parish noticeboard beside the closed-tight double doors.

Further on a corrugated chapel, one stained glass window,

tin sheets slant-cut to form a steeple. Valley bottom

huddles of galvanised garages also in shades of

spare-paint green, majority tar-coated black.

Among hillside heather

lone sheds, byres and lambing shelters

- where gales rattle and gusts clang, rain drums -

been patched and extended with sheet metal

of different types and ages, silver recent

nailed atop shades of brown-to-orange rust.

Other isolated garages and one-time coops,

riverside pig pens their black mud gone to weed,

in states of leaning dilapidation, rust-nibbled sheets

with curves and channels variously striped; wet woodland

grown around; below boughs moss-painted green

sheds long ago abandoned and collapsed almost

to the ground, making now darkened dens, thin

bushes and pale-stemmed bracken growing within.

Sam Smith

Sam Smith is editor of The Journal (once 'of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry'), and publisher of Original Plus books. Now in his 70s he has ended up living in South Wales. He has several poetry collections and novels to his name, his latest collection being Speculations & Changes (KFS Publishing) and his latest two novels Marraton (Indigo Dreams Publishing) and The Friendship of Dagda & Tinker Howth (united p.c. publisher)