Helen Dunmore

Image by Caroline Forbes

City lilacs

In crack-haunted alleys, overhangs,
plots of sour earth that pass for gardens,
in the space between wall and wheelie bin,

where men with mobiles make urgent conversation,
where bare-legged girls shiver in April winds,
where a new mother stands on her doorstep and blinks
at the brightness of morning, so suddenly born -

in all these places the city lilacs are pushing
their cones of blossom into the spring
to be taken by the warm wind.

Lilac, like love, makes no distinction.
It will open for anyone.
Even before love knows that it is love
lilac knows it must blossom.

In crack-haunted alleys, in overhangs,
in somebody's front garden
abandoned to crisp packets and cans,

on landscaped motorway roundabouts,
in the depth of parks
where men and women are lost in transactions
of flesh and cash, where mobiles ring

and the deal is done- here the city lilacs
release their sweet, wild perfume
then bow down, heavy with rain.

from Glad of These Times (Bloodaxe Books, 2007) , © Helen Dunmore 2007, used by permission of the author and the publisher


Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore Reading from her poems

1I owned a woman once

2Glad of these times

3City lilacs

4Wild strawberries

5Extract from translation of Piers Plowman

6Bristol Docks

7Jacob's drum

8Those shady girls

9A cow here in the June meadow

10In the Desert Knowing Nothing

11Poem on the Obliteration of 100,000 Iraqi Soldiers

12Dolphins whistling

13The grey lilo

14Patrick I

15Mr Lear's ring

16The butcher's daughter

17That violet-haired lady

18To Virgil


20The sea skater

21Three Ways of Recovering a Body

22The surgeon husband

23The Silent Man in Waterstone's




27The Deciphering

28May voyage

Books by Helen Dunmore