It started with the usual sorts of beautiful
trinket – flowers, feathers, pebbles
in the rough and wonky shape of things –
collected into shoe boxes, or lost
beneath the car seat on the journey home.
And we didn’t think much of the pinecones,
loaded into bags like groceries.
Smiled at the withered stems gathered
into crisp bouquets, the gifts of gravel
wrapped in tissue paper. But then it was
moss, by the armful, it was twig after random twig
and now we find ourselves tiptoeing
across the kitchen, snail shells crunching like crisps,
our little witch stuffing crisp leaves into pans,
cultivating tiny ecosystems in drawers.
She rolls with the seasons: pocketfuls
of dandelions in summer, their seeds
floating into the cooking, snowing on toys.
Winter brings icicles, dangling like dead fish,
which splinter into howls on the floor.
Nights, we prune. Rehome woodlice.
Scoop up handfuls of forest
and make for the bins. While she sleeps,
a ball of wool under her pillow, we pillage
her ragged treasure, leaving just enough
that she won’t feel what’s gone. And still
she beavers on, wonder giving way to habit,
necessity, head bent for the shed skin
of the earth, our tired eyes rolling with
each small, urgent act of salvage.
Jonathan Totman’s debut collection, Night Shift, was published by Pindrop Press in December 2020. His pamphlet, Explosives Licence, was joint winner of Templar Poetry’s 2018 iOTA Shot award. Find him on Twitter @jonathan_totman.