My mother took us picnicking on trains
to see rosebay willowherb dance
along the track. On wet days
her Coddington magnifier
made us fluent in the sex life of flowers,
the symmetry of petals, the margins of leaves.
No unkempt laneway where we marched
behind her sensible bottom
was complete without a lesson
on the tiny heads and beaks of cranesbill
or the leguminous links
between vetch and peas.
When the sky was harebell-blue
and skylarks rose on threads of song,
we treasure-hunted through summer sandhills
for drumsticks of purple orchid.

Something is creeping through her memory now
like spreading tendril roots of buttercup,
so bird’s-foot trefoil might be gorse,
thrift is a pink flower, woodruff white.
I still spot coltsfoot before its leaves appear
and rub wild thyme between my finger tips.
My children know how to suck nectar from fuchsia heads,
that cuckoos don’t make cuckoo spit.
They show her the shine of sunlit celandine
among yellow flags in a wet field
and when she asks, I say the words she knew—
oxeye, plantain, lady’s mantle,
bugle, cowslip, bladderwort,
speedwell, Mum, forget-me not.