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 But now, a cottage, sandwiched between orchard
and A2. It’s true, the road the Romans built
is not a peaceful neighbour; and out back the birds,
the wind … but, oh, this picnic cloth of land!

                  from; Prologue by Maria C McCarthy






   The Orchard – a sequence:
Orchard Inventory  
The orchard trampoline  
There are boats on the orchard  
An exhibition at the village hall
The orchard in November
The orchard ladder
Car on a country footpath




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Maria C McCarthy


Maria C McCarthy is the author of a poetry collection, strange fruits (Cultured Llama and Wordaid, 2011), a collection of linked short stories, As Long as it Takes (Cultured Llama 2014) and contributing editor of Unexplored Territory, an anthology of poetry and short fiction (Cultured Llama, 2012). She has an MA with distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Kent. She writes in a shed at the end of her garden in a village in north Kent. In 2015, she will be collaborating with artist and writer Maggie Drury on her sequence of poems about the orchard she can see from her shed. www.medwaymaria.co.uk







Once upon a time I lived hard against a railway line.
My garden was a handkerchief of paving slabs,
filled in fine weather with flapping sheets and shirts.
The quarter hours chimed with stolen light.
But now, a cottage, sandwiched between orchard
and A2. It’s true, the road the Romans built
is not a peaceful neighbour; and out back the birds,
the wind … but, oh, this picnic cloth of land!
This woman’s place is in her shed,
a voyeur with a window on the wildlife,
a notebook, a desk, a sign: Writer at Work,
entry forbidden to persons from Porlock.

A drought is declared
and it rains for a week.
Water creeps under the lip
of the butt, cascades
down the grain of the moulded tub.
The plinth buckles.
It lists like a drunk.
The car port floods.
Yet the bunting that I pinked and stitched
from scraps of cloth flies its heedless triangles
on liquorice-twisted bias-binding.
Rain and shine, rain and shine;
washed and dried, washed and dried.

Orchard inventory
A Vauxhall Chevette swathed in brambles,
back seat piled with Haynes Manuals.
A van, nearside window frame
duct-taped to plastic bag.
Four boats, then two, then three, then one,
(stock dependent on sales, theft and season).
A horsebox spilling cushions and chicken wire;
an Olympia portable typewriter;
A ride-on mower in a hut with a broken lock;
a Black and Decker workmate; a plastic box;
asbestos panels with feathered splits; a trampoline;
a vacuum cleaner; bones; a shipping container; a swing.
An empty can of Woodpecker cider; a tricycle;
kitchen units on a scorched grass circle.

The orchard trampoline
Laughter, a new percussion in the rhythm
of summer, and through the poplars, ankles,
hands and strands of hair appear, and then retreat
in stolen flight and fall, feasting on this leftover
of the Selfish Giant’s family party.
He’s moved abroad, the grass is only mowed
for his annual barbecue, and fruit is left to rot,
and yet he’d chase these children with a shotgun,
like the scrumpers he threatened when he lived
in the house he sold to us. But now he’s gone
they clamber over the gate each day until
September claims them for the classroom.
Pigeons perch on the rim, plums ferment on its skin,
and rabbits graze beneath its battered hymen.
The skirt that wrapped its legs lies ripped by autumn winds.

There are boats on the orchard
Tarpaulin stretched over hull, on twin wheels
with one flat tyre, tilted starboard,
a parched prow points towards the water
butt that catches the run-off from the outhouse roof.
It’s seen the turning of the seasons twice
in this spot across from its mate that nestles
in the hedgerow, mast scraping hawthorn.
The farmer’s in the orchard with a man
and van with Drainage Solutions inscribed
on the side. A handshake, then Solutions
man hooks hedgerow boat to trailer,
tacks between the blossoming trees.
There was a speedboat, too, that should have been
cresting the waves at Whitstable, but sat so long
in the gap by the broken-down horse box
that I noticed neither its presence, nor absence,
till a policeman neighbour saw paperwork
at the station, relating to its liberation.
There were floods in fifty-three.
Hundreds of sheep were drowned
due to loss of local knowledge,
left to graze on marshland
reclaimed by the estuary
that lies between the mainland
where the orchard stands
and the Isle of Sheppey.
One grass-locked vessel
waits for the waters to swell.


There was snow this time last year.
I watched as a woodpecker knocked
ten bells out of a dead tree in the orchard,
stark green and red in a virgin world.
Blue tits and blackbirds feasted on fat balls
suspended in cages from the car port.
The woodpecker remained beyond the post
and wire frontier where the orchard ends
and the garden begins. Now, in the bare earth
beneath the rotary clothes line, perfect circles,
formed by the diamond drill of a border-
crossing pioneer, staking a claim, or foraging
old territory, unwilling to relinquish lost land.

An exhibition at the village hall
On the map, the orchard is an ochre patch;
the key says Strategic Allocation.
Planners are given face by a man who translates:
frilled circles, clouded brown, show the trees of now,
to be replaced by a housing estate.
Early evening, rabbits slalom through the trees
where I’ll gorge on plums, come August.
Woodpeckers flash red and green, buzzing
low as though on a bombing raid,
and I want to cling to the branches
like those folk that won’t leave their houses
till the wrecking ball strikes.
The dusk chorus, a pink sundown,
the orchard thrown into shadows.
I capture the picture.

The Orchard in November
Fermenting apples
left to ripen, rot and fall.
Death of the harvest.

The orchard ladder
Last summer a man climbed the arrow of this ladder
picking plums piling them into a wicker basket
held to his back by a leather strap
This year the speckled globes
shrivel on the branches
like dulled lights left
after Twelfth Night
and diggers crush
a carpet of flesh
The canopy lies
at the ladder's
feet its rungs
taper to


Car on a country footpath
Twig fingers probe where windows
no longer wind down. Russet windfalls
tumble in the foot well, rot on skeletons of
once-upholstered seats. Long-since scavenged
of mirrors, tyres, headlights, a bramble-clamped car
on a country footpath, though human-placed, is not out of place.
As much a part of the landscape now as the lines of planted poplars.



 3 - Publishing History

‘Orchard Inventory’ appears in Poetry Salzburg Review 26 (Autumn 2014); ‘The orchard trampoline’ appears in Domestic Cherry 3 (2013);  ‘Pioneer’ appears in The Norwich Writers’ Circle Competition Anthology 2012 and in Unexplored Territory (Cultured Llama, 2012); ‘Car on a country footpath’ appears in strange fruits by Maria C McCarthy (Cultured Llama and WordAid, 2011); ‘The orchard in November’ appears on the e-zine Message in a Bottle (Spring 2014)



4 - Afterword

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