Henley In Arden

Betty Castle, Queen of the Flower-beds
by Matt Black

kneels with spade, ready to plant, reserved face,
plain suit, looks like wool, warm and practical but not
the height of fashion, the photo shows a woman
busy gardening, with get-on-with-it post-war determination,
the station mistress, doing sterling work for this proud station.

But the mystery remains, why our Betty Castle came
to spend her days creating lovely Edens, painting
rocks, like seaside scenes, her prize-winning garden,
where dozing eyes will wander, rest and wonder
as the Shakespeare Express puff-puff-puffs in to Henley-in-Arden.

Maybe Betty paced Platform 2b or not 2b,
jittery with joy, feverish for her young RSC Valentino
on the clouds-of-steam 12.03 to Stratford-upon-Avon.
Maybe his lean face never showed. Betty never recovered.
From that day on smiling flowerbeds were her lovers.

Maybe Betty was always shy, at school, at home,
always the mysterious loner, for no discernible reason.
Maybe her Dad never took her to Weston-Super-Mare,
or Mother was unkind, so she shut down, spent a life
building yearned-for seasides in her mind.

“How do we get here?” The station asks.
“To being us.” But no one knows. Maybe Betty did
kick her heels, let her hair down at the Black Swan.
But Betty’s pride guards the soft stuff inside,
hides the story behind her serious expression.

These rocks, this wild garden, such profusion.
Daffodils, pansies, geraniums, reds, yellows, greens.
You look up at us, Betty, and your quiet eyes sing,
Here is love, here is spring, and for you, and you, and you
I spend my days on platforms planting dreams.