I Met a Gin-Soaked Blackthorn Bush in Shropshire

Soft friendly fronds, peat moss green, cover suburban garden-gaps

or fan the fraying winds on lonely mountainsides, stilted juniper,

trunk sinews flexed between the hard places and the rocks.

Bosky, dusky, frost-dusty blue genever fruits for the taking,

for the macerating, the pot-distilling into pellucid liquor, 

the gin that trapped Hogarth’s 40% proof-breasted sloven

into never-ending graven image of “unfit mother” hell.

But now Gin Lane’s been gentrified, a classy tonic’s been applied

and Jennifer is spirit queen, all the better when royal flushed

into sloe-eyed beauty of vermillion pigment in the crystal clarity.

Clingstone berries settle on spiked, close-weave blackthorn bushes

each day-dwindling Autumn, drupes and drupelets, matt mauve

and powder purple, packed and pickable at merest touch,

prickable with slender barbs from the same prunus spinosa.

Steeped for months, sugared sparingly, the berry-blood seeps,

leeches quietly, is sucked by the alcohol into scarlet lucidity,

into bracing tastes on the tongue, exhilarations of flavour.

Eager, generous blackthorn cries “cheers” even before Spring:

stands of white sleet-blossom Mexican-wave the chill hedgerows,

sure sign that ice will clink in sloe-friendly glasses next Winter.