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

Recordings

Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore Reading from her poems

1I owned a woman once

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2Glad of these times

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3City lilacs

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4Wild strawberries

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5Extract from translation of Piers Plowman

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6Bristol Docks

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7Jacob's drum

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8Those shady girls

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9A cow here in the June meadow

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10In the Desert Knowing Nothing

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11Poem on the Obliteration of 100,000 Iraqi Soldiers

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12Dolphins whistling

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13The grey lilo

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14Patrick I

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15Mr Lear's ring

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16The butcher's daughter

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17That violet-haired lady

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18To Virgil

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19Litany

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20The sea skater

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21Three Ways of Recovering a Body

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22The surgeon husband

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23The Silent Man in Waterstone's

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24Need

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25Heimat

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26Violets

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27The Deciphering

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28May voyage

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Books by Helen Dunmore