Poems were requested on the subject of ‘Renewal’ to be read at the recent Suffolk Poetry Society’s AGM.  I wrote this poem for the event, but there were so many people wanting to read their work that I decided not to join the queue, and now show it here instead.

You can click on the image below ( from Professor Dennis E. Briggs’s definitive technical book   Malts and Malting ) to enlarge the images of  cross sections through a barley grain.


Cross sections through a corn of barley
Cross sections through a corn of barley



A single barleycorn  sits on my hand

its Ventral Furrow matching palm’s crease,

turning it reveals a tiny bump

under the taut husk’s dorsal tip.

This blip, unnoticed by most,

is a miracle under protective cloaks

a sealed promise of an endless cycle,

the time-locked dormant Embryo.

Explore, peel back the two-part husk —

the Palea, which wraps the seed,

overlaps its other half, the Lemma –

covering the Pericarp’s embrace.

The Pericarp tightly locks the Testa,

firmly around the Aleurone Layer,

the final barrier to the treasure,

a storehouse of unconditioned fuel,

insoluble starchy Endosperm.

Feed for the power-house Embryo,

secreted beneath the golden husk,

only partially masked by  Lodicules,

joined to its compact energy source,

at the Scutellar Epithelium barrier.


Each planted seed will hydrate slowly,

until the Embryo meets target moisture,

when Scutellum enzymes then will breach

the Epithelium‘s permeable frontier,

burst the Endosperm’s guard-cell walls,

convert the starch hoard to simple sugars —

the modifying energy for metamorphosis.


Germination has broken dormancy.

The parent plant’s regenerative gift

drives the Coleoptile towards the Sun.


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