Two Poems by Susan Castillo

summer forest with green bushes and sun rays

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I made a garden by the sea,
northern Portugal.  Roses bloomed for me, 
shielded by stone walls 
from blasts of silver wind.  

I made a garden up on Skye.
Crofter’s cottage. They’ll say a woman
came from the mist. She planted two giant trees.  
Sequoias. I was never one to think small.

I made a city garden by a black heath 
where plague victims were interred.
Cascades of yellow roses. 
Blood and bone are good for soil.

I made a garden in the Sussex countryside, 
cloaked the house in roses. Grew grapevines.
Filled it with children’s laughter,  
learned to live with darkness.

I made a London garden.  
Weeded out old sadness, threw out decay. 
Planted bold bursts of flowers,
draped walls in blooms and scent. 

Bloom where you are planted    
My mother used to say.

Braiding

In a distant Southern parlour.  
I comb Grandmother’s straight black hair.
People always said she might have Indian blood
Where did all these wrinkles come from

For goodness sake, I answer.   
You’re eighty!  It’s okay to have a few.

Now the light streams through the window
in the Sussex countryside.  My granddaughter
combs my hair.  It used to be 
dark gold, now is white. 

My granddaughter pats my shoulder.
You’re beautiful, she says.

About the Author

Susan Castillo Street is Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita, King’s College London.  She has published four collections of poems, The Candlewoman’s Trade, (2003), Abiding Chemistry,  (2015), The Gun-Runner’s Daughter, (2018) and Cloak (2020), as well as several scholarly books. She lived in Portugal for 25 years, and is now based in London and in the Sussex countryside, where she owns a vineyard.