Poor hedgehog in the road squashed by a car,
What good to you was your hibernation?
Had you woken up but one day later
You might have lived to see the summer through.
But alas you were not destined to be
Another Mrs Tiggywinkle,
Hanging out washing till a ripe old age.
In the horse-drawn days of Beatrix,
Hedgehogs had greater life expectancy!
27th April 1971
A blackbird sat on the school fence
Watching the boys doing long jump.
“This is the way you do it,” he said,
And swooping down from his perch
Flew the whole length of the sand pit.
A red cardinal
Flew into the house today
And lost himself in
The orange of the sofa.
Only the black line
Of his beak and the brilliant
Eyes gave him away.
Seychelles, 31 October 1968
A robin sat on the roof
And sang his heart out
As we loaded wet concrete
Into the barrow,
Shovel by painful shovel,
And pushed it away
To lay the wall’s foundations.
With two tons shifted
Since the lorry unloaded
And two still to go,
We were in no mood to sing,
But robin sang on
Into the grey afternoon.
Our hearts were lighter
Even if our loads were not.
23 December 1971
On summer nights at six o’clock
The cows come slowly down the lane,
Their udders hanging low with milk
And Iris leads them by their ropes.
There’s Daisy, Sue and Goodlands Bess,
Verbena, Violet and Rose,
And Clover out of Marigold
With velvet dewlap, honey brown.
There’s Bijou next, not yet in milk,
And Patience with the broken horn,
And last of all along the lane
Comes champion Primrose, great with calf.
They turn into the farmyard gate
Where Beauty greets them with a bark;
Off to the milking sheds they go,
Each to her stall with fresh straw laid.
The fields behind them, closely cropped,
Are left to mists and fairy rings,
While red ball sun behind the trees
Sinks slowly down into the marsh.
The pails are full, the milking done,
The churns are stacked out in the yard,
All in its place the farmyard sleeps
And dreams beneath the milky moon.
15th May 1971
At the end of their long chains
The cows lie chewing.
Surrounded by pale circles
Of closely cropped grass,
They slowly regurgitate
The morning’s grazing.
Soft eyelids blink drowsily
Over wet round eyes,
Gazing into grassy voids
Or calling up warm
Visions of stone milking sheds
Bedded with clean straw.
Two magpies stalk across the building site,
Ruffled by the cold wind through the thorn hedge.
I don’t really know what they hope to find
In this wasteland of concrete and gravel.
Perhaps next year when the grass is growing,
There’ll be crusts thrown from our kitchen window.
Are they looking for building materials
Among the curled shavings and the rubble?
They’re welcome to share ours around the plot,
Especially as there are two of them
which always augurs well for the future.
3rd April 1971