Parting words

Last evening, we stood and watched a flock of house martins fuelling up for their migration to Africa for the winter. There must have been three or four hundred of these little annual visitors darting around the sky in pursuit of insects in a swirling, twittering cloud. It was a wonderful sight, but it was my nine-year-old daughter who really inspired this poem.


They gather at dusk
To feast on insects
Lofted by summer’s failing warmth:
A Last Supper snatched
Before the big sky swallows them
And instinct fills their hearts
With longing for a glaring shore
Where winter cannot come.
My little one, her face upraised,
Following my finger, watching,
Calls out softly, ‘Goodbye – I’ll miss you.’
And I think on things that, once departed,
Will not come back again.


Harrowing times


In the straight-six diesel’s steady grumble
And the dark scents stirred
From the crumbled clay rippling round the harrow tines
Summer softly leaves the land.
There is work to do before winter:
The gulls that crowd the stubble
And the birds in the fruit-bright hedge
Know it; I would no longer stand and watch
But put my hand to the plough
Turn this tired soil under
And await a kinder season.