I don’t like to peddle my own wares in this weekly slot, but every so often I feel a twinge of guilt at doing nothing to assist the publisher who has so gallantly but imprudently invested in my work, so here is a fairly recent effort that just made it into my ‘Collected Poems’, for details of which see the ‘News’ page. Just in case anyone feels like ordering it through their library…
Yoesden Bank is a nature reserve in Buckinghamshire, not far from my home.
Adonis Blue, Yoesden Bank
Yes, I have loved them, just the way one loves
Unknowingly, until a thing is lost:
Peacocks, tortoiseshells, red admirals
Browsing buddleia’s sweet purple pastures;
Brimstones, woken by the year’s first warmth,
Dancing over bank and brambled ditch;
Once on a beach a fall of painted ladies
Like leaves from some fabulous autumn; orange-tips
And clouded yellows, but never till today
This one, with its wings like summer sky
Bordered with white cloud. It makes the day
Perfect: it distils, it gathers in
The whole of this chalk hillside hazed with flowers,
The hum of sun-warmed grass, the church below
Lost among trees – you’d say that some great artist
Had added to his canvas, Turner-wise,
One drop of purest colour, then stood back
Satisfied at last, his work complete.
Sorry, it’s been too hot here this week for much in the way of inspiration, so I’m making do with one of my own, written during another such summer, though not, I think, the legendary summer of 1976; it seems to have been during a hot spell in 1989.
The world’s less real on summer afternoons.
We walk in dazzle, wan as daylit ghosts.
The streets are white and foreign: in dim shops
Assistants idle, sheened like melting wax.
In offices, in schools, in hospitals
The hours are burning dunes, and far off yet
Oasis evening with its water-dreams,
Its shadows and its cool solidities.
The countryside’s no better: mirages
Sizzle on the surfaces of lanes;
The larks vibrate in poplared distances;
Crops swelter in the fields, on crumbling banks
The soil lips back from blue-white teeth of flint.
All roads are longer: air lies honey-thick
Round farmyard gates; a solitary child
Puddles its naked foot in pavement tar.
Truth is, this is no season for us now:
Untalking and untouching, we endure
Like cattle on the hillside, till day’s ebb
Sucks at the round-pooled shadows of the trees.
‘For the young’ we say, disturbed at light
So riotous and squandered, suited now
To cooler, more reflective husbandries:
Night, and the moonlight’s pure economy.
Just this once, one of my own efforts, with the excuse that it does at least have a seasonal theme…
My winter treat, the pantomime at Christmas:
To go out after tea, in frosty dark,
Down by the railway bridge, past the allotments
To the lit hall in the village.
I was four.
What was time to me? I thought that Jesus
Lived in the air-raid shelter, I thought that a train
Out of the unmapped dark might bring the Wise Men.
I thought that the whole silent valley brimmed with a secret
That the stars might spell out with their shining.
They are gone,
The lit hall, and the laughter; I recall
Nothing of those. Strange then, to see so clearly
That journey down, the glint of moonlit rails,
The frost-furred brick, the snow-capped cabbages,
And all the starry secret, still untold.