Cow Parsley

This year there is a
Splendid crop of cow parsley
In St Peter’s Valley.
I know you think it funny
That I should love this
Tall ungainly flower which
Grows head and leafy shoulders
Over scarlet campion
And ragged robin,
But its clouds of faded white
Are the saving grace
Of many a marshy field.

1968

Jerseys All

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

Jerseys

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.

Class Outing

Hare's Tails
 

I made my way down
Through the long grass and hares’ tails
To the eroding dunes which
Hold back the water.
The children were lost
Waist high in the cow parsley,
And pale puffs of pollen and
Dandelion seed
Floated around them.
You were not with me
And the still, hot afternoon
was slow in passing.

for Judy
5th July 1968, Jersey

The Fort on the Beach

We built a fort of seaweed
Against the rising tide,
We made it round and solid
And then all climbed inside.

The waves splashed up against it
Till we were wet with spray,
Our fort began to crumble
And seaweed float away.

“Quick, quick, the walls are giving!
Build up the broken gate!
Let’s reinforce the ramparts
Before it is too late!”

In spite of all our efforts
To stop the rushing tide,
Our castle sank beneath the waves
And water came inside.

“Abandon ship” my Daddy cried,
“Let’s leave it to the sea!”
We scrambled up the beach to Mum
And went back home for tea.

26 August 1979

Branchage

Potato fields
Are empty;
Haulms turn brown
In the sun.
All along
Country lanes
Sickles cut
Deep into
June grasses.
Red campions
And nettles
Fall with vetch
And yarrow.
The shorn lanes
Are wider
And sadder.
Tomorrow
Men with rods
Will pass here
To measure
The clearance,
Fining each
Landowner
For any
Obstruction.

1971

Saffron headlands

Saffron headlands, sweet
Almond smelling, alive with
Bees pollinating;
Blue glass water on shingle
Lapping, time lapping on me.

Oh that you could feel
This sun, breathe in this heavy
Air and see with me
The gorse afire on Beauport,
Golden in silence.

Jersey, 1966/1967