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‘The May-Tree’ by Yvonne Reddick – Primers Shortlist 2017

Your embrace was the Shelter Stone
when the ferns began
____________________to unscroll their questions.

You planted a may-tree, and said the whitethorn
could not match the bloom in my cheeks.

By summer, you swore you’d carry me from Edale
to Kielder, to show me the dens of lynx.

My vows were the Ring of Steall.
_____________________________I gathered hazel-shells
and painted their insides gold.

We crouched in each other’s warmth in a snow-hole,
by the year’s turning,
___________________but the blizzard smothered our fire.

I kissed your collarbone, but thought of Le Col Maudit.
You gave me sweetbriars, and I crushed them in a press.

Your promises
______________grew to a ring of fly agarics.
My nails griped your shoulders like harriers’ talons.

By spring, our limbs were a knot of adders.
You yelled that my sheets were the Val Sans Retour.

By the end, all that was left was a may-tree,
__________the carrion scent of its petals.

Yvonne Reddick is on the ten-person shortlist for Primers Volume III. ‘The May-Tree’ is from her shortlisted manuscript Desire Path. We’ll be showcasing the work of all the shortlisted writers over the next two weeks, so check back to read more poems.

After publishing an academic book about Ted Hughes, Yvonne decided that she’d better spend more time on her own writing. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Stand, Shearsman and PN Review. She won a Northern Writer’s Award and the Mslexia Pamphlet Competition in 2016.

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