Poem of the week: Meg Bateman – ‘Touched’

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NATURE-WRITING is having what you might call a moment.

Non-fiction books by writers such as Robert Macfarlane, Richard Mabey and Kathleen Jamie are focussing the vision of readers who have grown dim to the natural world. Entanglements – New Ecopoetry (Two Ravens Press, £9.99) sees poets tackle many of the same themes; here, the pleasure of being outdoors is tempered by contemporary fears of what we’ve done to nature – and what it might do to us in return. Meg Bateman’s “Touched” describes an ambiguous encounter with a forest; it’s also a wonderful taster for her new collection, Transparencies, which is published in July.

I come on crooked-fingered trees,

on lichens and ferns upheld on decay,

each brittle branch in its green muff of moss.

Brown leaf-mould crumbles beneath me

down into gullies, where only the liverwort,

luminous and fleshy, holds on as I slither.

I startle at the sockets in a gleaming skull,

at a heron’s harsh cry, try not to let

bog suck and swallow me or root fell me

in the failing light. I clamber over, double

under, sprawling trunks. Brambles

snatch at my sleeves, my hair, in my hurry.

in the undergrowth deer crash. On their trail

I glimpse a hound bounding white, its ears

aglow. The chill air makes me dizzy,

twigs spiral overhead…

It’s a relief to see the car through the trees,

get the dog in the back, drop into the seat,

and with the radio and heating on,

drive back to concrete and glass,

hoping colleagues won’t notice.

• You can borrow Entanglements – New Ecopoetry from the Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh EH8 8DT. Tel: 0131-557 2876, e-mail reception@spl.org.uk or see www.spl.org.uk for details.