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Image by Ardi Evans


the madrigal, volume v

Spider orchids

by fiona cartwright

          A thin pelt of mouse-ear hawkweed
coats the hauled-up seabed

           ghosted with chalk.
In the green the spider orchids

           hatch from the earth in hordes,
blacking the hillside like pufflings

            emerging from burrows
under a live confetti of painted ladies

            flying head-height off the sea
below a skylark pebbling

            its notes together.
Beneath the song’s apex

            the orchids are half-emerged,
egg-toothing their way out of bud, flowering

             in memoriam for your son.
He did not see a single spring through, the spring

             we accuse of shortness,
while we wind forty of them through our fingers

              like prayer beads
strung into a perfect spine.

Fiona Cartwright is a poet and conservation scientist, born in London to Irish parents. Her poems have appeared in various journals including Magma, Mslexia, Interpreter’s House and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Her debut pamphlet, Whalelight, is available here ( and she tweets @sciencegirl73.

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