Migrants

They come in numbers now. Each new dawn brings
Another band of travellers. Steely cries
Slice through the breathless air; sharp sickle wings
Unceasing in their scything of the skies.
The sleepless nights and restless, unmapped days
Have brought them up from Africa, through Spain
And France, their single thought to feed, and raise
Their young. So much to lose, and all to gain.
Then, with the seasons’ shift, the bounty spent,
An urge strong as the force that drew them here
Will send them south once more. The sky we lent
Them handed back, they’ll mass and disappear.
Come one, come all, and welcome; for we know
That when the great wheel turns again, you’ll go.

A lot of talk here and across Europe at the moment about the migration crisis. Meanwhile, the swifts have arrived and are happily helping themselves to our high-altitude insects. It struck me that we actively look for and welcome migrant birds, like swifts and fieldfares, as symbols of the seasons, yet regard people arriving on our shores having fled war, poverty and persecution as a threat. It’s also telling that both swifts and people are coming here from roughly the same places, by similar routes, and for the same reasons. I guess if I had any answers to offer, I wouldn’t be sitting here now. N.

Summery sonnet

The weary gardener sets aside the spade
Now heavy as the August day is long
And seeks a quiet corner in the shade
To breathe the flowers’ fragrance, hear the song
Of busy birds among the shrubs and trees.
The wren trills in the hedge; the thrush replies
With liquid notes, and carried on the breeze
The shriek of black swifts harvesting the skies.
Then all at once a midnight silence falls
Upon the garden. Nature holds its breath.
No pigeon pipes, no finch or blackbird calls,
And summer shivers at the chill of death
As in the whispering ash beyond the gate
The sparrowhawk alights to watch and wait.

Time to go

Close of business

No wandering
For my mind today:
It’s been a strict
Eight-hour forced march
On hard roads
Of others’ choosing,
The telephone bawling orders
And the Inbox driving me
With frequent lashes
Of its electronic whip.
Now the rest of me
Weary with inaction
Rises up; a quiet insurrection
Fomented by the sun
Shining in my window
And the swifts
Like black new moons
Racing over heaven.
The world has made a market of my hours:
Those that remain
Till sleep claims me
Are not for sale.
For now
I am free.