In conversation


One of the nicest aspects of this residency is having the time to talk with visitors to Benmore.  Our conversations usually begin with either plants or gardening or poetry and it’s amazing where these three seemingly simple topics can lead.

Having the time to let these conversations run their natural course is proving to be both a mine of inspiration for my own poetry and a way of making me feel connected to so many of the people who visit here.

I know it’s a cliché, but I realize I had forgotten the sheer pleasure of conversation and how good talking to people can make you feel. For example, last week I had the following conversation with someone, who, shall we say, has a keen interest in the size of the telephone bill at Benmore Botanic Garden. To keep their generosity anonymous I’ll call them X.

Me:      Would it be alright if I called my Father? It’s his birthday today and I can’t get a phone signal at the lodge where I’m staying

 X:        Oh aye. No problem at all. Phone away.

Ten minutes later when I had made my call…

X:         So where was it you said your Father lived?

And that’s when I realized I should have said I was calling Hertfordshire not Zimbabwe or the outer suburbs of Kathmandu.  X’s sigh of relief could be heard across the garden, down Holy Lock and into Glasgow.

I so like being Poet in Residence at Benmore. I’m inspired not just by the wonderful garden, but also by the trust and the warmth of the people who work there.

Walking on water

I lie by the Danube, limbs lost in long grass,
thinking: if my brother dies before me,
I might inherit alone. Delicious,
ripe strawberry of a thought, it’s sweet juice
runs down my chin. He’s not old or ill
and it’s curious to think of him; we argued,
haven’t spoken for over ten years.

Except once, at my parents’ house. I answered
the phone, Hello. Hello? a voice replied, clearly
confused. Hello. Echo. Hello. Echo. I stopped first,
held my breath. Nine seconds. Ten. Eleven. Sue?
He said and when I didn’t reply, It’s Tim.
I’ve changed his name but nothing else.
For a moment the canyon narrowed.
Either of us could have stepped across, but if he did
he met only snakes and tumble weed. I’d already gone
to fetch our mother. A scalding wind
chimes dandelion clocks. With dog rose petals
and thistledown, it lays a fragile path
across the comatose Danube. I walk down it to
my brother’s death, my untold riches.

Sue Butler



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