There are two kinds of flax – the first
has blue flowers.

I picked some this morning,

in a shimmering Lincolnshire field.

Simple clothing and sheets –
that keep temperatures low.

The other flax – a bluer blue
(my reference works don’t have enough pictures).

I picked some this morning,
treking back from that radiant Lincolnshire.

This flax endures, bluesy at the roadside.
It cheers a place up, kept to a small vase.

(Varnish – a layer
to seal this spoken
painting, your painting.)

by Richard Price

from Earliest Spring Yet by Richard Price (Landfill, 2006)
Copyright © Richard Price

Richard Price is Head of Modern British Collections at the British Library. His widely-acclaimed first collection, Lucky Day (2005), was nominated for the Whitbread and Forward poetry prizes. His new collection, Greenfields, was published by Carcanet earlier this year.

‘Flax’ is from the title sequence of Earliest Spring Yet. Its lyricism hovers between sleep and waking. Like the rest of the poems in the book, it is a love poem, but an oblique one. The speaker seems to be living two lives, symbolised by the poem’s two flowers: one in a lonely dream of fields, and one in the real world of roadsides. The ‘blues’ of both are presented in conclusion to a private addressee as a ‘spoken / painting’, a picture of the speaker’s heart.

Landfill Press was founded in Norwich in 2004 as a publisher of contemporary poetic sequences.