Summer Begins at Midsummer

silhouette of trees during golden hour
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Summer Begins at Midsummer

When the cuckoo changes its tune, it’s June,
The month with the longest afternoon,
When the golden hour will last an hour,
And the floral clocks are forever in flower –
It’s barely worth the daisies to close
When a good night’s sleep is barely a doze,
And the nightingales must rush their glee
Till the sparrows fart at the crack of three.

 

 

The Travelcard Shuffle

photo of train
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The Travelcard Shuffle

Every morning, all Summer long,
We shirtsleeve masses struggle aboard
The dawdling trains in the hungry platforms,
Like some suburban zombie horde.
Then staring out at rusty sidings,
Ragged lots, and the empty sweltering sky,
As the weaving rails must dance and join,
And the shapeless buddleia bushes go by.

 

 

Every Sunday

photo of brown and white short coated beagle lying on a pillow
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Every Sunday

For ever since I can remember,
Sundays were the worst –
Growing up in villages,
We longed for them to burst,

With their uptight prim and properness,
And Sunday-Best remarks,
With nothing ever open
’Cept the churches and the parks.

We longed for the tension to flare up
In an all-out family war –
But of course, they never would,
They just went muttering as before.

Our parents either marches us off
To hymns and holy dread,
Or took a lazy breakfast,
With the Sunday papers spread.

Then out to visit relatives,
Or kicking round at home,
Or maybe made to wash the car
Or read some worthy tome.

It was a Blue Peter sort a day,
Vaguely seen as good for us
In that terribly wannabe middle-class way,
With an Archers omnibus.

Then come the evening, on the box,
Some cop show or a flick –
And sometimes there were arguments
On who would get to pick.

Even as kids, we felt the sense
Of desperation in it all
With families forced by ritual rest
To slow down to a crawl.

With Monday looming over,
And with homework to be done,
We clung on as long as we could, until
Early to bed, no more fun.

The Longest Day of the Year

stonehenge england
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The Longest Day of the Year

She was born at Solsticetide,
And so they named her Summer –
Blond and bright and beautiful,
And all the Spring a comer.
But once the longest day was done,
She felt the nights draw in,
Just waiting for the Winter low
To let the next begin.

Now I will barely notice how
The evenings have crept,
Until the clocks have messed about
To show how dusk has leapt.
But then, she saw a greater change
Than I, from day to day,
For she grew up in Lerwick town
And I down Jersey way.

 

 

The Uncarved Block

stones pebbles wellness balance
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The Uncarved Block

Ancient wisdom always seems
To favour pure and nat’ral artefacts,
The stuff of philosophic dreams
Of unmined hills and untapped cataracts –
Yet crying for such simple ways
From modern lives of iron, wells and mills,
They lounge and think away their days,
While harder-working peers must hone their skills
To hew and dig and chop and grind,
And turn the world into a workshop floor –
To build the surplus so a mind
Has food enough to ponder nat’ral lore.

 

 

How Now, Tao Dao ?

chinese guardian lions
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How Now, Tao Dao ?
Taoist, I’m told, should be said with a ‘D’,
As ‘Daoist’, as voiced in the throat.
By why must it be then written with ‘T’,
To wear both a cloak and a coat ?

Perhaps the Chinese say it between,
But English is spoken by English tongues –
We must decide which way we lean,
And write it like the word is sung.

 

 

Summer Guest

an oak bush-cricket, i think

 

Summer Guest

A miniature cricket, or maybe a ’hopper,
Has found its way into my flat.
I thought that the spiders would send it a-cropper,
But they’re having nothing of that !
It could be a locust, but that would be holier –
Easy to spot though – bright green on magnolia !

I feared it was munching my windowsill cactus,
But I see no evidence there.
I guess the poor thing must be fasting in practice –
My ceiling-top cupboards are bare !
It doesn’t have wings, so it’s still just a young –
It’s legs are un-hopped, and its song is unsung.

 

 

Big Charters

plaque

 

Big Charters

Thirteen copies were written, at least,
And probably many more –
All passed from bishop to sheriff to lord,
And pinned-up, read, and, finally, stored,
Then rotted or burned or thoroughly creased,
Until we were left with four.

But then, for many centuries,
Their words were out-of-date –
Their scutages and fishing-weirs
Belonged to long-forgotten years,
And busy parli’mentaries
Have moved on the debate.

Their Latin text is cramped and clipped,
With not an inch to spare.
And just like half the baron knights,
We cannot even read the rights
We’re gifted by this foreign script –
We have to trust they’re there.

But so what if the parchments fade ?
They’re passing, mortal things –
It ain’t the laws that they imparted,
But the movement that they started –
In their image we are made,
Who bow to laws, not kings.

 

 

Clause 50

magna

 

Clause 50

“We will remove entirely the kinsmen of Gerard d’Athée from their bailiwicks, so that in future they may hold no bailiwick in England.  We will remove from the kingdom all foreign knights who have come to the detriment of the kingdom.”
                                                                                                                               – Magna Carta, 1215

English rights for English barons:
That was the cry at liberty’s birth –
And though they’d gag at the thought, would the barons,
Their rights would trickle down to the serfs.
Slowly, slowly, and bloody hard-won,
Till the days of the tyrant-kings were done.

But nothing but exile for Gerard d’Athée,
Farewell to Engelard, can’t let you stay,
Goodbye to Guy, and to Guy, too-da-loo,
Au revoir, Peter, and Andrew, adieu,
And Geoffrey and Geoffrey, you’re fate is the same:
Deported by charter in liberty’s name.
And Philip (and brothers), return to your sires,
Ex-Sheriff of Derby- and Nottingham- shires,

So there it was: the English disease:
Scraping-up some scapegoats for their sleeping in our bed.
But never for a moment did we get up off our knees
To kick out at the barons – so we kicked the French instead.
This lack of disquiet from locals is telling:
Just tugging at forelocks instead of rebelling.

But surely things have improved ?
It isn’t as though the world hasn’t moved:
It started a wave that has kept rolling on,
So we’ve far more rights now than had even King John.
But all the un-English may find us less caring,
For English-born freedoms were not made for sharing.
So tell, Magna Carta: just what are you for ?,
But a thing to suspend when we’re neck-deep in war.

 

Note that in the original, the clauses were not numbered.  The first to do so was George Ferrers’ English translation of 1534, while the modern numbering dates from William Blackstone in 1759.

 

 

Nala

what happened to my eyebrow
Study of the Head of an Old Man with Curly Hair by Rembrandt

 

Nala

I know a man who’s all at sea,
But that’s alright, for he can sail –
He knows the winds, he knows the tides,
And where the undercurrent hides.
And back on land, it seems to me,
He’s just as calm within the gale –
He’s not afraid of getting wet,
And trusts upon the course he’s set.

He knows his destination isn’t fixed,
But just a stated aim –
The breeze may have its own idea
That he can’t fight, but still can steer.
He is a man of air and water mixed,
An old hand at this game –
But even sailors sometimes wish
For fresh dry clothes and no more fish !

I know a man who’s all a-shore,
Who dropped his anchor on the land
And found a port to beach his hull,
And trade the blackbird for the gull.
Yet still he hears the breakers roar,
And finds the driftwood on the sand –
But he’s content to furl his sails
And leave the whale-road to the whales.