Visibility Poor

Five to eight,
Mist outside,
The lighthouse
Foghorn blows
And day tries
To get up.
Airport closed,
Dead taxis
Wait in lines,
No Sunday
Newspapers,
Dull morning.
Black trees in
Grey meadows,
Still cows built
Into mist
Imitate
The foghorn,
Calling down
The Cowman
Wellingtoned,
Great mallet
On shoulder,
To alter
Their tethers.

15th April 1971

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.

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

Fields I know

I come again to fields I know
And laugh and cry that every tree
And gate seems so familiar.
The turnings in the country lanes
Hold no surprise, no hidden threat,
And tides, twice daily, flow and ebb,
And sunshine follows after rain
With rhythms, smells and sequences
From ages set. All this I love!

Started on the boat to Jersey,
finished in hospital in Brussels.

The Mill-stream

Under the tangled late summer grasses
After the rain shower full the stream passes,
Flooding and gushing down through the bracken,
Not till the mill-pond does its flow slacken.
Down through red campion, hart’s tongue and wild bramble,
Over the boulders, see the stream scramble!
Lost in a tunnel of ferns by the roadside,
Hidden from view as it runs down the hillside,
Bullrushes, foxgloves, speedwell and mallow
Border its passage through fields lying fallow.
Down through the mill-race, through sluice gates turning,
Over the mill-wheel splashing and churning.
Round goes the wheel and the stones grind and grumble
And into the sacks the flour starts to tumble.
Here all is noise with the rumble and creaking,
But high in the loft where the sunlight is streaming,
On fat sacks of grain in the dust calmly seated,
The ghosts of past millers with smocks neatly pleated
Gossip of things as they once used to be,
While the stream rushes onwards down to the sea.

Quetivel Mill, St Peter’s Valley, Jersey
1979