No drowsy dusk, no scent of elderflower
Or honeysuckle, dog-rose, eglantine
And all the garlands of Titania’s bower
As we poor, foolish mortals now incline
Our closest to the sun. Come solstice night,
I should walk, knee-deep, on the feathered edge
Of moth-soft fields suffused in amber light
While Oberon, enthroned beneath the hedge,
Holds court and toasts the world in golden ale.
Instead, I shiver in the house as rain
Smacks on the glass like grape-shot, and a gale
Roars in from the Atlantic once again.
The weathermen despair: all hope depends
On honest Puck, who shall restore amends.
I posted this sonnet on 21 June last year: as you’ll gather, honest Puck has been falling down on the job, and it’s distinctly un-Midsummer-ish here in Sussex this year, too! And to think the nights start drawing in again tomorrow…have a splendid weekend, one and all. N.
A winning ticket
Could be worth
Seven wondering mouths agape;
Seven whistles of disbelief
Or one long ecstatic moan.
But even such incontinent
And wishful-thinking-weighted wealth
Could not buy me
A twenty-fifth hour, a second self,
An easy heart, a quiet mind,
A single cubic inch of open sky.
And when I smell the new-turned soil
And the forest after rain;
Eavesdrop on river’s chatter
And the whisperings of the sea
Watch the buzzard circling high above the dark-browed wood
Hear flute-notes ring like silver bells
Feel her soft hand enclosed in mine
And catch a certain smile
I don’t need a string of numbers
Spat out by some cold machine
To tell me I’m in luck.
They handed us our call-up papers
Along with our degrees
In the golden summer of ‘91;
To be thrown into the endless fight
And lost. But I refused.
So while my mates
Packed up their kit, pulled on the uniform
And went to take on the world
I dug in among my fields and woods,
Watching the battle’s bright sky-bursts
And hearing its rough thunder from afar,
Raging against the folly of it all
With quills cut from white feathers
I was handed in the street.
Now they sit, gloriously pavilioned,
Freighted with honours and worthy scars
Commanding legions, lands, and all the spoils.
While I fight on,
Day-by-day and hand-to-mouth,
Beneath no banner but my own
And though my gains and conquests
Are slight and insecure
I claim each little victory as my own,
And trust that I will triumph in the end.
Catch their sound:
A long-drawn snarl
From beyond the woods.
I track them
Across glistening fields
Bouldered with cows;
Through a gate
Kinked by years of heavy carelessness,
Over a stile in the wayward hedge,
A hundred yards up a concrete road;
Another gate, bent like an old coat-hanger,
And over the brow.
There: the big machines
Peeling dark swaths from the shocked hillside;
Gaudy jewels on pale skin.
As another turncoat June
Hurls wind and rain like insults
The breathless work goes on:
The famished clamps gape like fledglings
And so the trailers fly
To feed them
While I stand here,
Powerless to help,
Taking a first cut of my own.
Silage-making is under way at last in our corner of Sussex. Better late than never. N.