The Earth of Cumberland Is My Earth
(Winifred Nicholson – 1893-1981)
In the gallery vases spill windflowers, aconites,
cranesbill, lily of the valley. Colours of summer
autumn and fresh snowfall reunite
like old friends.
Dry-stone walls hold back Mallerstang Moors,
a sycamore cools the dip in a bold field as if
it’s the last graze on earth. And I’m breathing fell,
sky, sea, home – all this that lived in her
in her words, …my paint brush always
gives a tremor of pleasure when I let it paint a flower
especially wild Cumbrian flowers.
Winifred knew the rush of light and dark,
heartbeat of blue, Payne’s grey and violet –
violet she carried home from India to Bankshead –
kept it for sunlight to dress distance in mystery
until mountains and the River Eden swept her brush dry.
I think of her pine palette – pigment leaching
like water from flagged floors on the hottest days,
deep limed walls seeping pink,
her love of flowers in bud – promises to come
not yet arrived, altared in windows turning air into perfume
unaware of how years later
it fills this room.