Field of Science

Moss Poetry

This is the last installment of the moss poetry by Giles Watson. Click here for a link to the original posting of this poem and other botanical poetry.

Fontinalis antipyretica by Giles Watson (October 2004)
... and where the fern’s tear dropped
into the stream that sprung from the stone,
it became part of the whole, swirling
from the mosses’ tresses, split

and rejoined, through the gills of a trout,

where the leafy island ended.
By the holes of voles and the heron’s bone,
with the stream-spun eddies curling,
echoes, waterborne, of the willows above,
where minnows swim, within, without,

are homes for flat-shelled snails.

And mingling in the whispering foam,

with the large-leaved bracts unfurling,

the water-moss, like faeries’ hair,

is weaving, flowing softly out.

And were I where the cold calves low,

or where the kettle sings me home,

where oatmeal mice are bobbing,

I’d seek where moss flows with the stream,
take flight, and slowly go about.

Below the fold is a blurb from the author about his inspiration for this poem.

Source material. Fontinalis antipyretica is known colloquially as ‘Willow Moss’ on account of its flowing attitude. It normally grows submerged in water, where it reproduces by branching and detachment, but it can produce fruiting bodies when exposed to air. It characteristically has larger leaves at the ends of the bracts. This poem was written for Jeannie on her birthday, 10th October 2004, and in honour of William Butler Yeats, whose poem, ‘The Stolen Child’ written in 1886, is answered here.

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