Taken I

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A faint breeze wafts the feathery tops
Of the grasses in the hayfield;
Soft, tawny with sun, downy with pollen.
Shut up safe all spring,
No hungry mouths to tear and chew,
No hard hooves to spoil and trample.
But soon the end will come
In the whine and slash of spinning steel
And thus laid low, all will be withered, gathered up,
Neatly compressed, and then consumed.

Taken II

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The sward close-cropped, shocked
Pale and scarred as a convict’s scalp.
The careful husbanding of months
Undone; stripped and carted, buried deep
Beneath black plastic. Overhead
The buzzard circles, patient, watchful.
While in the shattered stems
The urge to grow anew gains strength
And, irresistible, prepares a second crop
To be cut down in its time.

Cauchemar

What dream is this that comes upon me now;
Appearing out of nowhere, filled with fields
Of flowers, summer grass and grazing cows
Deep in some hidden corner of the Weald.
My younger self strolls easy, dog at heel
Along a sunken lane roofed in by trees
While overhead the broad-winged buzzard wheels
And all is as it was, and meant to be.
But on the grey horizon, dark clouds grow;
The grass bends in the breeze; and all at once
I see a hooded figure on the road
Ahead. No time to turn. No place to run.
A simple wish for one more carefree day
Now haunted by a fear that has no name.

 
 

Wanted to see if I could stick to the basic sonnet formula while mixing things up a bit, so I tried playing with the end-words, allowing myself more latitude than usual with the consonants as long as I maintained the correct vowel rhyme. Turns out that breaking one rule consistently and deliberately is actually just imposing a new one. Interesting. N.

Harvest

From the hot road
I watched combines make wide-wale corduroy
Of gasping fields cast in bronze and gold;
Racing balers trailing fine brown dust
Build their fleeting henges and tight-rolled scrolls of straw;
Felt the fat, satisfied summer –
The goodness and greenness of the place –
Wrap itself around me.

I come from here. That can never change.
Its deep rhythms are my heartbeat;
By its moods and seasons, I measure out my own small days.

In these dark times I cannot look upon it as I did:
Forces far beyond these gentle hills conflate
A love of one place with a hatred of The Other.

But this country is deep-grained in my hands, clings fast to my boots:
I am bound to it, and it to me
Until I too am gathered in, and finally ploughed under.

 
 

Events of the last three years have changed the way I look at the UK. But on a long, hot ride yesterday, I came to realise that it’s not my local tract of countryside that’s changed: it remains as lovely as it ever was, and I still feel very deeply about it. That, I guess, is one of the worst aspects of what our politicians are doing: their nationalism taints any innocent expression of love for the place one lives in. Just one more item on the lengthening list of things I’m not sure how we fix, or forgive. N.

All I could see

from my small window
was the changeless street
unaltered neighbours
static cars
a strip of sky
no horizon.

All I could see
on looking inwards
was the shapeless fear
unbending logic
stalling dreams
a growing dark
all doors bolted.

So I rose and rode
to the windy top
of a high green hill
where sheep grazed, larks sang
ancients slept, old ways ran
and let myself be lost in
all I could see.

Kite

Easier to count
The days I don’t see your lesser kin;
Familiar, worthy of a look, a nod
Like neighbours passed in the street.

But you. What wild wind
Blew you out here;
A foreign shadow falling on the field,
The crows in uproar, the air alive;

All things made smaller
By your breadth and heft;
The flash of copper on your wings
The glint of a drawn sword.

A wanderer from beyond our bounds,
Rarely seen and half forgotten.
But you are surely welcome, stranger.
The great world turns. Not all is lost.

 
 

Buzzards are common as sparrows rouhnd here these days, but their larger cousins, red kites, are still pretty rare. I saw one today, though, for the first time in ages, set against a bright spring sky. Of such true and noble things is happiness made in times like these. N.

…and an old heaven

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And yet, I know there is another way:

A tangled net of narrow country lanes
And backroads I know better than myself
And could ride blindfold; every hill
And hedge, each field and farmhouse, every curve
And corner as familiar as my face;
A constant heaven I can call my own
Where seasons roll yet decades leave no mark
My past and present blurring as I pass.

This road is in my head and heart and legs;
Its every inch is graven in my skin.
I’ve sweated through its summers, felt its chill
Chew through my clothing, biting at my bones.

And as all other things are lost, this place
Might be all that remains to me; a road
That I can always take on trust, forget
That hellish other beaten out for me.

Where I may live and wander as I choose.
A paradise that I can never lose.

A quintet of cinquains

Night falls;
And one by one
The lights still left to us
Are doused. How long will we await
The dawn?

The birds
Have read the signs
In wind and earth and tree.
One day, we will wake up to find
They’re gone.

I walk
The flowered fields
And through the clean-clothed woods.
But where in all this life may I
Find hope?

The fire
Burns low, its light
Too faint to read, the flame
Too weak to warm my back; and soon
Goes out.

The herd
Moves slowly west
Into a great unknown
And who can tell us if they will
Return?

 
 

Today’s prosodic experiment is the cinquain. It’s quite similar to yesterday’s rictameter, in that it’s syllabic; the differences being that it’s five lines, not nine, made up of (respectively) one, two, three, four and one iambic feet. The final cinquain is inspired by the wonderful ‘slow TV’ documentary Reinflytting – minutt for minutt (literally ‘Reindeer migration – minute by minute’) currently showing live on Norwegian channel NRK. I shall try to write some more cheerful cinquains in due course, I promise. Just been one of those weeks. N.

Raptor

He rides high over the wood,
A black cross carved
On a flat, cold sky:

The wind and all the world
Turn with a twist
Of his curved flight feather;

His weapons ready –
Beak, eye, wing and talon
Sharp and clean.

What I would give
For his lone completeness,
Such unweighted, spare perfection;

While I am bound and grounded
By this jealous, grasping earth
And all its superfluities.