Their firebright words lit up the air
In rhythmic reds and rhyming blues.
Unseen, he smiled to sit here where
He'd struck the match that lit the fuse.
After Philip Larkin
The mower conked out. On close inspection, I found
That it had just run out of petrol. Having refilled
With a funnel, I pumped the choke three times
As per the instructions. It started first time
And I was back underway, circumnavigating
Tree trunks, dodging daffodils past their prime.
I didn’t even see a hedgehog, let alone
Kill one. But then I’m not so busy writing poems
That I let the grass grow two feet high.
I may not be a poet. But at least I can mow a lawn
Without slaughtering the wildlife.
Inspired by a trip to Wenlock Priory
Hard to believe every city had one
Once, a hospital like this. (Medicine
Was considered valuable back then.)
Hospitals inspired awe, devotion.
Take a long look at these old foundations
Worn smooth by centuries of erosion.
This building served a huge population
Who thought it the best place to get well in.
These crumbling walls contained things they called ‘wards’
For the ill - or ‘patients’ - as you may have heard
Them referred to. Now it seems quite absurd
That we’d give such care, let alone afford
The vast expanse. They were such wasteful times
Back then. Buildings of this enormous size
Cost a fortune. Debts rose, interest declined.
These monsters were bleeding the country dry.
People no longer sought medical help,
Ignored the outdated doctrines of health
And turned instead to the Cult of the Self:
What else matters, if you’ve still got your wealth?
Finally, they were all shut down by law
And now they just sit here for us to explore.
And children wonder, “Well, what were they for?”
Since nobody sickens or dies anymore.
Rainy day, so an opportunity to start learning some bell-ringing methods. If otherwise flummoxed, turn it into a nonsense poem...
Plain Hunt Doubles
Run to me, for time ticks 123456
To stun your beehive chicks 214356
You draw fun-size twee pics 241536
Score due, I’ve done free kicks 425136
Shore drive: blue sea spun slicks 452316
Strive more, be true, gun clicks 543216
Shrive, be pure, shun blue flicks 534126
We thrive on floor glue fix 351426
See swan dive through your sticks 315246
Son, me too, I've more tricks 132546
Run to me, for time ticks... 123456
We have watched them work through the final frosts
Colouring the branches with their shining calls,
Bright budburst notes wrapped tight and green as moss.
We never saw their eggs, stayed far away
Through the mother’s brooding. With one still eye
She watched us working, till the fourteenth day.
And as we mowed, they came with full-stuffed bills,
To perch, heads cocked, above the squirming nest.
Mouths reached out and wide like daffodils.
Now the nest is empty. The work is done.
And as we mow the lawn again, they sit
In branches, singing green songs in the sun.
This garden sings out to the world in green,
Tremolo leaves punctuating the air.
New movements swell from the soil to declare:
“We are here, where we always have been.”
Each colour of sound that these flowers are giving -
The F sharps of yellow and B flats of blue -
They sing without pausing for breath, all on cue,
Almost exhausted from the joy of living.
Inspired by my first ever new pound coin...
Gardeners’ Question Time
“My leeks, my shamrock, my thistles and roses
Are no longer thriving,” our listener discloses.
“What can I do to ensure they’ll grow freely?
The answer should be inexpensive, ideally.”
“May I ask firstly what else you have growing?
And which way is the prevailing wind blowing?”
“I’ve walls on all sides, so no hint of a breeze
And to keep it all tidy, I’ve cut down the trees.
I’ve dug up all species that aren’t from these shores:
Tomatoes, potatoes and black hellebores
I just want my British plants richer and fuller
So I’ve driven out all of the non-native colour.”
“Well, there is your problem, I’m sorry to say.
You’re turning your soil into hard, sterile clay.
With only four species within your four walls
You’ll soon find your fragile fertility falls.
The answer is simple: to get a rich loam
You just have to make it a welcoming home.”
Today I drove to the magistrates
Under wet newspaper skies
To find out if this is really what I want to do,
To decide the future of those
Whose present is drenched in past.
Sheep in fields along the way
Had new company. A pair of lambs,
Or just the one, following, nuzzling.
Mother and offspring number-matched
To help in the event of loss.
Number 12 and her trembling twins
Grazed right beside the gate where I stopped,
Aware but untroubled.
Mother kept them carefully close,
Little twelves stumbling in the warmth of her wake.
Later at court, Case 12 shuffled into the dock,
Hollow-eyed, gently prodded into place.
The prosecutor listed things:
“Possession of a bladed article...”
The defence then listed things back.
She had long left home and the fists and the kicks.
Sleeping now in a borrowed tent.
Friends, but none to offer a fixed abode.
Only cider to sluice the memories away.
She sat impassively watching the wall.
Refusing all help, probation explained.
Unwilling to change, at least for now.
Better to leave her to find her own way.
The bench agreed: Suspended sentence,
Weak words of warning. She nodded and left.
I stopped at the same gate
On the road back home. Number 12 stood there,
Untouched by time. Her lambs stumbled, stop-start,
A few feet away.
They did not leave her gathering gaze.