For the first time in my life I am despairing. Our worst fears realised: sickness, hatred, strife, corruption Spreading through the land; our leaders gross, vile, uncaring As we’re heading, deep in denial, for destruction.
When I was younger, stronger, I might have resisted. But I no longer have the will to fight; defeated By depths of greed and lies I never knew existed. And deed by wicked deed the coup’s completed.
So to the wood, the field. In their quiet rehearsing Of good, timeless tales, truth is revealed; no agenda. I regain my voice and strength. The dark is dispersing. My choice is stark but clear. I will not surrender.
The Celtic droighneach is probably the most challenging form I’ve encountered; although it looks simple enough, to my mind only the sestina comes close in terms of metrical constraints and complexity. It’s so taxing I can manage only about one a year, but it’s always fun to do (in hindsight, and following a stiff drink and a lie down in a darkened room). N.
All voices mute. All books closed. And so I took myself into the hills Wandered among the woods and fields To tap the wisdom of the world.
Seek my silence, said the land. Breathe my air. Watch the shadows cross my face, the trees bend with the wind. Understand my deeper workings But never let your knowledge close the door on wonder.
Follow the roll of stars and seasons, The great wheel turning in the earth. Plough, sow and harvest; but guard the goodness in you. The sin is not in lying fallow, but working gifted ground to dust.
Feel my bones beneath your feet. Be that bulwark for those you love. And as time and fortune wear and shape you Be shot through with truths as hard as flints That strike sparks, blunt blades, outlast events and weather.
To my left-brained
Eye and mind
These fields should now
Be an abomination;
No discipline by plough
Or corrective cultivation.
A shameful parade
Of gleeful weeds appears;
Led by a brigade
Of over-eager volunteers.
But as I look around
All that I can see
Is my native ground
As it’s meant to be.
The fields close to our home have been left uncultivated this year and the weeds – and we – are making the most of it. As well as wheat plants seeded from the previous crop (known as volunteers) there’s an amazing profusion and diversity of wild plants that would normally be sprayed out of existence. We’ve followed the rewilding process right through the lockdown period (we’ve been allowed to go out for exercise) and it’s been fascinating and inspiring to watch. Sadly, all the plants, and their attendant birds and insects, are doomed, but not for reasons of husbandry: the entire farm is a development site and is slowly disappearing under what will eventually be 1,000 new houses. I studied agriculture at university years ago, and I still like to follow the rhythms and workings of the farming calendar. But this spring, I’ve learned I’m even happier seeing what Nature can do when left to her own devices. N.
My bicycle has brought me
Through country lanes, quiet woods
And up a short, steep hill
To this almost-forgotten church
Where the old dead dream deep
Beneath tumbled, lichened stones
Lost in drifts of summer flowers.
And I could be content
Were it not for knowing
Even this sublime machine
Will never bear me where I truly wish:
Back through years to times when we
Had seen and lived through none of this;
All things lay up ahead, yet to be.
So I must choose: inter all hope
To moulder like these ancient worthies;
Vainly seek a road that runs
Against the flow of Time;
Or climb on, breathe deep, look ahead
And take the onward way again
To all I fear, and cannot know.