Elizabeth Barrett's A Dart of Green and Blue uses sharp and specific nature imagery to remarkable effect in her poems of grief and loss, which encompass vitality and humour in counterpoint to poignancy. In Kingfisher her dying mother complains of the multi-coloured pills she is given in hospital,
I'm not a kingfisher she told me
Swallowing was hard. She hadn't caught
those pills in river light - didn't have the king
bird's knack of flicking them in the air
until they perfect-angled down the 0-ring
of her open throat...
On her last day they pumped morphine through
her veins. I waited. Watched. It only took one
hour before a dart of brilliant green and blue
flicked past me [heading somewhere) and was gone.
She is a masterly and accomplished poet, the emotion and imagery interlocking with surprises. Love is beautifully described in the sense of the person who has died missing out on present life, so familiar in loss,
This Spring I'll tip the scales to day -
tilt them with weighted hours, then fold
time here at the edge of light. I will stay
with her at the high window, gold
flaring long as a solstice sun. We'll play
at naming streets...
back the night, so she'll never look the way
she did next day when she'd been told.
There will be no fall through shortened days,
no sudden winding down of years, no scald
of tears nor darkness. Blessed in gold,
the days unbalancing forever, she'll grow old.
The technical accomplishment in her work is worn lightly, the sense of the universe going on, as in reference to the solstice, pervades the poems.