Sarah Westcott

Sarah Westcott was artist in residence at Phytology in 2016/17. Westcott has a science degree and an MA in poetry from Royal Holloway, University of London. She grew up in north Devon on the edge of Exmoor, and is inspired by the natural world and the places where human and non-human intersect.

Westcott’s pamphlet ‘Inklings’ was a winner of the Venture Poetry Award and the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice, 2013.

Her poems have been published in Poetry Review, Magma and Poetry Wales and anthologies including Best British Poetry 2014. Slant Light, Westcott’s first full-length collection was published in April 2016 and includes her poems form her Phytology residency

Charm for Delayed Birth


Let the woman who cannot carry her bairn go to the grave-bed, step three times over and say, earth, earth, mother of earth, help me against late birth, the lame –

and when that woman goes to rest with her beloved man in bed
may he feed and tend to her,
with her say, up I go, over I step,

full with our first-born birthling, swelling and fattening, suckling, and when the mother senses
the quickening and the dropping,

woman with a cradle she cannot fill, let her go to a child’s resting place and pick a flower from the grave, wrap it in black wool and throw it

like bad corn, far away,
then let her draw milk from the mildest beast and sip it from her palm.
Then take her down to the stream to say,

everywhere I have carried you
strong, tight and firm
and I shall carry you until you are born and then I shall carry you home.

Weed /wi:d/ weod

i. A wild plant growing where it is not wanted A valueless plant feeding on cultivated land Any undesirable or troublesome…

footsore, feeble, I have roamed on the cloaks of flanks, spores, wings,
to root, to flower, to seed myself
it is a mother’s doing.

I push into the city air
to draw the insect wound,
stiffen my body and green myself as I come into form.

Meg-of-many-feet, jump about, white man’s footsteps, devil’s claw

cudbear, hairmoss, blessed thistle balm of gilead, black haw

ii. A contemptibly feeble person. Often a small boy.

a boy in the wrong place
a label, a name, a category,
a prison wet with dew
and spittle – a small, strong growing boy pushing into the light,
fine hairs on his lip,
shooting his mouth off
or stinking of weed
bone-locked as a fox on heat
trembling, heart-sore.

iii. A wretched or useless animal, especially a leggy, loosely built horse

‘my tiny bay weed could jump like a stag’

iv. To root out
To rid of undesirable or superfluous elements
To remove an inferior or unwanted component of a group or collection

To weed (out), to purify, to clear

to urinate (past tense)

to wet-the-bed, to plead –

to weep through the long night in the dew
for the weeds in the wrong place, at the wrong time self-seeded in the hard clay, self-sown,

for boys cut down
as knives sing over the battle lands, their rough tellings.

betony, bittersweet, black horehound, blessed thistle, butterbur,

coltsfoot, eyebright, golden rod horsetail, hyssop, lavender –

Weed: an opportunist, a clown in bright colours, a shower
of golden urine, a pungent wrap of herbs, a carpet woven from dreams of desperation,

a flying seed, a body tumbling
an orange hair-streak under
the alder, a conscience unfolding, a boat packed with souls

a secret lorryload unloading in back streets where winged shapes fall, a lad in plimsolls, shivering, language far gone.

Meg-of-many-feet, jump about, white man’s footsteps, devil’s claw

cudbear, hairmoss, blessed thistle balm of gilead, black haw

betony, bittersweet, black horehound, blessed thistle, butterbur,

coltsfoot, eyebright, golden rod horsetail, hyssop, lavender.

 

A project by Duncan Robertson and Lucía Montero

Commissioned by Nomad Projects

Supported by Arts Council England