Rolling in it
I had a spring song
Surging like the sap in my pen.
When I read the news
My celandines shrivelled
My primroses lowered their pale faces
And my skylarks croaked, twitched
And tumbled out of the air.
I guess you’ve earned your name
If not the sum
– enough to pay two hundred teachers –
They say you’re taking home this time:
The light of scrutiny and opinion
Just bounces off you;
So brilliant and precious
The whole world wants you for its own;
So adamantine in your defence
Of every penny,
The Mohs scale can’t measure
The hardness of your heart.
And as your limo wafts you
Into work this morning
I’m betting you’ll be laughing all the way.
In response to the revelation that Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays Bank, received pay and bonuses of £9.0 million, plus a further £15.2 million in shares, in 2010. My only comfort as a Barclays customer is that, as a result of the recession, for the last two years he’s been banking with me.
They’ve been laid down
Over endless ages;
Layer upon layer
Of vests and shirts
Compressed in deep, cemented strata,
Shot through with seams
Of stone-aged denim;
And fossil frocks
Cut like fault-lines
Through a couple of aeons’-worth
Of dark, basaltic socks.
Digging down into the lowest reaches,
We uncover t-shirts,
Shorts and flimsy, strappy stuff
From far-off fiery days
Before the earth grew hard and cold.
And like prospectors, gold-fever-gripped
We whoop at each new strike:
Deposits of bath-towels, nightshirts, sheets
A snaking vein of kitchen cloths;
A rich lode of clean underwear.
Do we detect
The smallest trace of iron.
This evening, we finally got round to sorting out the stack of clean laundry in the airing-cupboard, which was as high as the North Face of the Eiger and just as intimidating. It took all three of us, and there were things in there we’d forgotten we even owned. We’re not slack, exactly; we’re just very good at finding more interesting things to do. And we really hate ironing. One of the many reasons I don’t have a proper job requiring shirts and stuff.
Off the hook
I’m not available
To take your call right now:
The air in there
Is sour and sick,
Thickened with work,
Tainted by worry
Like the gust of last night’s beer
From the pub door Sunday morning.
Now I’m out
Of reach of the bank, the Revenue’s men,
The trivial tyranny of whencanyougetitdoneby,
And the world falls away
Like the sheep-speckled hillside
Beneath the red kite’s wing.
Just a coat between me and the wind
That playfully snatches at collar and cap;
Boots pressed into the old, soft turf
Like the fifty-pence-piece in my Grandad’s palm;
The dog stops, turns, looks at me and laughs
And a lone crow tips me a knowing wink.
When I’ll get back to you.
This should give you some idea of the week I’ve had. Wish it was half-term again, and we were back in Wales.
To boldly go
In his overalls, bulky boots
And thick fleece hat pulled right down over his ears
He lumbers, slow, stiff-legged,
Over the sodden ground
Like a spaceman on an alien planet
Where the atmosphere’s thin and bitter cold
And the gravity’s turned right up.
The mission commander remains behind
On the quad-bike that squats like a moon-buggy
On its fat balloon tyres
And from the seat, he barks peremptory orders
At the half-dozen sheep
Gathering round the trough,
Grateful for this daily visitation
From another world.
I saw this little scene played out on a dog-walk in Wales the other week. I think the whippet (who was wearing his fleece jacket at the time) felt rather inadequate when he saw the collie standing on the quad-bike seat in the freezing wind, barking joyously, having almost certainly spent the night outdoors too. I was certainly conscious that I’m not nearly tough enough for a life like that. Then again, how many of us are?
I don’t need
To see five thousand fed
On loaves and fishes,
Blind eyes opened,
Or a man shake off the tomb like a twenty-four-hour flu.
Just show me
Thirty seconds into life;
A heap of wet rags in the straw.
Her wide-eyed dam licks every glistening, astonishing inch of her;
And with the steam still rising
From her new piebald coat,
The calf snorts, shakes her head and strains to govern
Those outsize, unruly legs
Drawn to the udder by a power
She can’t resist, and I cannot explain.
My mother-in-law’s house in Wales is on her brother’s dairy farm. My daughter and I went down to visit Uncle R one afternoon, and arrived literally seconds after a heifer calf had been born. My daughter, who’s nine, was captivated by the new arrival (who’s since been named after her) and I was reminded that miracles not only can happen, but do. You know them when you see them.