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
My friends, the limes are blooming now
And in their vaults the holy bees
Intone their sacred offices.
Of all high Summer’s sacraments,
This moves me most and with sweet scents
Body and mind intoxicates.
For this brief moment in the year,
Come share the fragrance of the limes
And, like the bees, forget all else.
The two giant limes in the school playground are in full flower. 5.7.92
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.
The geraniums are in
And the logs are piled high,
The chestnuts are gathered
And across the grey sky
The wild ducks are flying
We’ll come back in springtime,
Some day, some day!
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.
I love your warmth beside me as I lie
Cocooned in night, the small hours ebbing by,
Leaving me stranded like an errant whale,
High on a wide sandbank of sleeplessness,
A prey to fancies and imaginings.
No devils now, no banshee’s warning cries,
No terrors from a nun-conditioned childhood
Invade my thoughts and force their company,
But spirits of foreboding and of doubt,
Of melancholy and absurdity,
Hobgoblins all of chronic middle age!
You are my talisman against this night,
I stroke your thigh and put them all to flight!
20 January 1990
This morning I could suddenly smell
The phlox in my grandfather’s garden.
You were lying there beside me, still
Hardly awake and the whole room was
Filled with flowers from before you were born.
We ran down the garden path, looking
For windfalls, my sister and I, and
The pink and white phlox grew over us,
Swarming with brown bees dusty with pollen.
You said “what are you thinking about?”
As I stared at the ceiling. “I can
Smell the phlox in my grandfather’s garden.”
I was thinking of my own deep joy
And the depth of my sister’s sadness.
16 February 1969