Ray Givans

Regeneration

Ray Givans

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My father brought peony cuttings from his garden.

Insisting that he’d plant them, he gathered the required tools;

foremost a spade, its polished face turned to my garage wall

some eighteen months. He was not dressed for the operation,

suit, yellow V-neck jumper, suede Hush Puppies.

He eyed my garden, decided on a spot shaded from

blistering summer sun by overhanging fuchsia.

I stood, distant. He spat on his hands.

Heel to spade, he was quick to form a hole

one foot deep, push the plant into the earth

to winter there. His hands kneaded the soil, 

sprinkled potash to encourage spring

and early summer regeneration.


Next spring the peonies delivered:

a short outburst of fiery blossoms, citrus and spicey,

rubbing against soft pastels of Grandiflora roses.

Returned in subsequent years, before they became subdued.

And in the year they lowered my father into the earth

at Coolhill Cemetery, all bloom had gone,

for I allowed foxglove and ragwort to run rampant.

In autumn, my ten-year-old son close by my heels,

I picked up the spade. We dug out

the damaged tubers, stripped away the wilted stalks,

replanted in a light-filled space. I made allowances

for blemishes, the fickle nature of that plant -

it took two years before the flowers would fire again –

my father’s breath in them.


Ray Givans


Ray Givans has been published in five poetry pamphlets. His first full poetry collection, Tolstoy in Love, was published in 2009 by Dedalus Press, and was shortlisted for the Strong award for best first collection by an Irish poet for that year. His most recent collection, The Innermost Room was published by Salzburg Poetry Press, at the University of Salzburg.