Balsam impatiens.  Leaves
oval, slightly toothed.  Flowers
fine-petalled with a full lip,
a hood and spur of silk.

On this slow autumn day
the apple branches lean
against the grass, the white
seeds ripen privately
in the apple's darkness.

Noli me tangere.
Balsam is purple, yellow.
The pods explode in my hand
as the beat of a trapped
animal there, the seed
on my palm.  The hawsers
of the pod recoil, greens
never seen before, damp
silks worn new, still shaking.

Himalayan balsam, found
in stony places, secretly
especially by streams.


Gillian Clarke


A handwritten, colour-illustrated copy of this beautiful poem, as delicate as the subject it explores, was given to me by its author, Gillian Clarke on 8th February 1980.  I feel sure you will enjoy it as much as I do.  It recalls a day at Lumb Bank where Gillian and the late Frances Horovitz were tutors and Anne Stevenson guest reader, 'popping' the balsam seeds on the banks of the river Colden.  Gillian went on to become the present Laureate of Wales.

Poem posted Sunday 7th August.