Isabel Bermudez incorporates fragments of her own poems into finished hand-sewn pieces, working here with cotton embroidered onto silk. The pieces vary slightly in size but are roughly 1m X 0.5m and have been framed and for protection, placed behind glass. ‘Is this the past?….’ features lines from her poem – ‘The Fruit Basket’ in her first collection, Extranjeros, published some years after her return to the country of her birth, Colombia, where she lived and worked for three years in Colombian television and as an independent film-maker. ‘Cow Parsley’ is published in her first full collection Small Disturbances (Rockingham Press, Ware, 2016). ‘Briar’ and ‘Dandelion’ are recent poems.
She began work on a series of textile pieces around two years ago, following an adult education evening class and seeks to complete the series for exhibition. Embroidery has become one of her two chosen mediums – the other being poetry. She has published five collections to date, the latest is Serenade, poems evoking Spain and the New World, published in a letter-press limited edition by Walthamstow publisher Paekakariki Press with illustrations by her husband, the painter Simon Turvey, with whom she lives in Orpington, Kent. She is currently working on a new collection of poems.
THE FRUIT BASKET
The Persian blinds are half drawn, the cord broke years ago,
a eucalyptus has grown into the telephone wires;
things go missing: books, plates, odd bits of jewellery,
nadie viene…nobody ever comes…la tía says.
One day an old man, in his only suit,
arrives with a huge fancy frutero for her:
pineapple, mango, kiwi, melon,
all tied with dark red ribbon.
Se acuerda de mi hijo, my son Andres? he says,
le da pena… not liking to ask but
with things so difficult now…maybe
she could put a word in somewhere…
La tía Anita, la tía Anita parked in her chair,
is not what she used to be – he sees even if she does not,
that nothing is as it was all those years ago
when her brother was elected Presidente.
So the fruit-bowl’s taken down to the kitchen,
where it sits with its handwritten card to the Señorita,
hope leaking from the corners of the cellophane,
and la tía, woken from her sleep, is talking
about orchids, then the keys to something.
Are these real orchids? Real keys?
Or is it the past again, coming back in fits and starts?
Like electricity that comes and goes, or the telephone, when it rains.
Sunlight makes a home here, turns these tall stalks
to a May haze. Intricate,
after dull warty dock, white foam
appearing year on year
like half-remembered lines in sleep.
Gnats, furious after the mild winter
swarm above its whiteness,
brush my face and hair
hoverflies settle on upturned parasols of flower-heads
– dipping, quivering details.
And I’m alive to its white noise, a cloud
which barely stirs in river-breeze,
a lightness that won’t be cut or kept in vases
swathing each side of the towpath on the Thames.
I want to run a hand through it, this thickened air.
Grasp what it is that makes of love
a weed so ordinary and rare.
Winter breath across the hills.
Last stalks of cut corn.
And, tall and brown,
waist high: a field
below the Roman road
that cuts across the valley.
The water spirits
have all fled the wells.
In the villa
lie the bones
of a lurcher
and a new-born;
the prints of cats and dogs
on clay Roman tiles.
lined their walls
with daub and wattle;
fashioned a hooked hinge,
a leather belt.
Two thousand years
have passed, near enough.
Now long-tailed tits
have left a small halo:
this nest feathered with wild clematis.
Lodged in the hedgerow,
just out of reach
in the bare of a briar.
Brief, like us.
the blue of the bay
it hugs the grass.
of rusting dock –
a waste ground
in the fetch
of the wind –
an airy sphere.
as frost-ridden hedgerows.
brain on a stem,
scattering in a breath
to sprout elsewhere.
this white air.
NOTE: ‘The Fruit Basket’ was first published in Extranjeros (Flarestack Poets, Birmingham, Ware 2015. Ed. Meredith Andrea and Jacqui Rowe). ‘Cow Parsely’ was first published in Small Disturbances (Rockingham Press, Ware, 2016).