Going solo at Kew

I went to view the gardens at Kew
– without you – though we’d never seen it together
not in February, on a fine frigid day with the blues
thrusting through sky, and ice, and glasshouse
hard as board, the earth underfoot, frost topped
with a dry as bone crunch of lingering leaves
and trees everywhere, looming from mist and sun patches
like roughened sculptures from a land of giants

Crocus drifts already tufting the grass in mauve
most likely they are there too, all along
the Oak walk that surrenders the view at the bend
in the Thames – but I could not revisit it alone
a turn to lakeside, blonde reeds stiff and unruffled
in muddy melt margins, waterbirds tread disconsolately
their fitful clamour fracturing the floe

Hothouses are most beguiling now
tender water-lilies though are over wintering;
theirs a closed mausoleum of mangled roots
and in that other worldly Palm House
an odorous reception, visual astonishments
a muggy jumbled jungle of exotica, all lush and lackadaisical
under the protective, heated, dripping, canopy
greens dazzle in alien saturations, and the wider London landscape
nostalgic for our own exuberant summer hue

Inside or out you’d have wrestled for breath
frigid air eviscerating lung linings
the suffocating thickness of vaporous tropics
but there in the Temperate House we could have lingered long
a warm bright just right place of clement, curbed displays
moderate in-betweeny zones without a hint of winter
– if only you had seen this phoenix of a Victorian wonder
rise from its own glass and iron magnificence

ii

Light stopped play!
back to the pavilion, we’d say, ‘The Cricketer’s’
overseeing Kew Green, hoary this late afternoon
a small vacant table by the bar, two encircling chairs
I slip into one, sip some sweet Douro wine
fortified yet not enough to vanquish vacancy
and the silent discussion of this day out
we did not share

For Visitors:
Kew Gardens – Temperate House

Adjusting to being solo and revisting some favourite places before my move, as I link up with all the lovelies at Poetry Pantry