In pots in my backyard, the summer flowers are blooming.  The geraniums, in nine or ten different shapes and colours of bloom are opening their pretty faces.  Although I love most kinds of flowers, the secret love song that I sing is to the humble geranium, or “old lady flower”, as my friend Simon prefers to call it.

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When you think of geraniums, you probably think of a hardy, unloved plant, ubitiquitous to many a neglected garden, but I always think of aged terracotta pots, and the beautiful lines from the Pablo Neruda poem ‘I’m Explaining a Few Things’-

My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.

Then I cannot fail to remember that the next lines are what made me search out the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca

Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?

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You can read the rest of the poem at the bottom of the post.  It is a devastating, passionately heartbroken poem about Spain before and during Franco and the Spanish Civil War, and it makes you wonder where our poets are today, decrying damaged children imprisoned by our country, but that is a very different story to the one that I want to tell here (I am all about the segues).

I have more geraniums in pots than anything else, and more often two or three different varieties in a pot, for the simple reason that geraniums are like little gypsies – they travel; you can be totally opportunistic about a geranium, if you see one that you like growing in someone elses garden, you can pick a little sprig and stick it in some dirt of your own, and it will grow and become yours.  You can hold memories in geraniums, your flower can be the child or grandchild of your own grandmother’s plant, or your friends, or from some long left home,or a place that you travelled to on a Sunday drive.

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There are endless varieties of geraniums, and there are even geraniums that smell of lemon or roses.  For myself though, I love the homely, comforting smell that comes from the downy leaves and stalks of common geraniums.  I love the different leaves, some variegated, others plain, some glossy, some purplish or autumnal red.  I am attracted to the different costumes that they wear:  The tiny white butterfly-like flowers of some; the salmon hued star shaped blossoms of another; and the generous red bloom which brings me back to the joy of Pablo Neruda’s balcony.  These flowers make me smile and remember simple happiness.

(If you haven’t read any Pablo Neruda poems before, know that he wrote some of the most gorgeous love poems and metaphysical poems and a generally extraordinary body of work aside from his political poems, which are incredibly powerful.)

I’m Explaining a Few Things

Pablo Neruda

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I’ll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille’s dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
Everything
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings —
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.

And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood

Linking up with #IBOT over at Essentially Jess