Caterpillars – nibble-eaters, strictly vegetarian, They’re chowing-down on sugarbeats and duckweed and valerian, And wriggling over cabbages and newly-vented greens, Just look at all the gaping holes between the runner beans ! Row on decimated row beneath their painted swarms – Lord knows how they cling on through the heat and thunderstorms ! Where are all the hungry songbirds ? Browse my salad bar. Where the parasitic wasps ? Attend my buffet car ! Of course, there are the carnivores, though these are very few, And they eat ants and aphids, not the skipper or the blue. But still, a few round here would be a very welcome catch, Though they are in the Tropics, nowhere near my veggie patch. But there is hope – I hear that sometimes, when the Moon is full, That certain individuals, on a whim, turn cannibal, Gobbling up their brother bugs, to dominate the leaf, And sucking all their insides out like so much bully beef. But otherwise, my only cheer is hearing on the vine How numbers of the butterflies are in a steep decline – A shame the planet has to burn to stop their constant graze, But you should see the harvest that I’ll reap those final days !
Incendentally, the carnivorous caterpillars mentioned are the Hawaiian pugs.
The onions always made you cry, In ev’ry fry-up, soup, and pie – But that’s what onions do, I guess, They leave all chefs in such a mess. And so you had to drop them out From roasted duck and sauteed trout – You didn’t trust, as master cook, They way they always made you look.
Instead, you turned to garlic, And gazed beyond shallots and springs – Your eyes no longer marked by onion rings. You tossed the cloves in thick, Undaunted by my teasing quips – “Is this to stop me kissing other lips ?” Until, at once, you were gone – You said it was to breathe fresh air, To peel back the layers of life and see what’s there. And yet, you linger on – It’s been three days and a dozen beers, Yet still I taste your garlic in my tears.
A month of Sun, and then a month of rain All in a day Of monochrome, A month of Sun, then get the horrid rain Out of the way, While we stay home.
Alas, a month of heat will bake the ground As hard as clay, It can’t be tilled – So when the rain comes down, so fleet, It floods the river, floods the street, But cannot penetrate two feet, And washes off, away. The aquifer, I fear, is not refilled By what the clouds have milled.
The thing is, if you want tall trees, Then what you need is drizzle. A garden full of bumblebees Needs flowers, which need drizzle. For wheat that’s taller than your knees, For greener grass and fatter peas, For tamping down your allergies, You need a May of drizzle.
Here’s rosemary – for memory, some say, But here I offer it up for aches, And for the colic, here’s caraway, And there, valerian for shakes. I have the wisest sage for the eyes, And columbine for fevered brows, And lavender, to drive off the flies, And camomile daisies to help you drowse. Some fennel to keep you regular, back there, And thyme to rid the worms, Here’s rue for you, but it scalds in the sun – take care, Use St John’s wort for the burns. And for the maidens, I’ve violet and pansy, To keep your flowerhead free from weeds. And if these fail, there’s purgative tansy – Restoring your bloom, not going to seed.
I know, I know, I’ve rhymed worms with burns. Not ideal, but sometimes you have to take a leaf from hip-hop’s lyric sheet and roll with ‘close enough’.
Daisies and thistles are blooms fit for socialists, Sharing a flowerhead as a co-op’rative – Pooling their pollen with petals in common, A composite commune where sharecroppers live. From grounsel to ragwort, these working-class blossoms Are seed-making factories, union towns – They all get to share in the dew and the nectar, And all get to put on the sunflower’s crown.
Suburban woods are managed affairs, They’re planted, pruned and promenaded – Golden Autumns, verdant Junes, And countless Sunday afternoons. They’re so unlike the home of bears, These avenues and picnic glades – With squirrels aplenty, and walkers of dogs, With no trace of litter, or windfallen logs
But not these woods, these woods are damp, With only four diff’rent sorts of tree, And they grow too close, half-hidden in mosses, And crowd-out the path, or have fallen across it. These woods are wild, they’re stunted and rampant, They’re muddy and scrappy and forestry-free – Home to gnats and rabbits and crows, A bark-brown field where anarchy grows.
Along the canal, they’re hugging the banks, Keeping well out of the slow shipping-lane – With gear-stick flower-buds breaking the surface, Tightly sprouted and yellow-with-purpose. They open like eye-stalks on periscopes shanks, While landing-pad leaves are drumming with rain. Previous blooms are brewing-up brandy Drawing in bees like a backwater dandy.
Betty Fry loves butterflies, But hates the Brussels sprout. She helps her grandad with his plot, And tends the veggies for the pot. She picks the beans when of a size, And pours the can to ease the drought, She pulls the slugs off lettuce heads, And wheedles weeds from out the beds. Now Grandad Fry can grow a prize In marrows, long and stout – But most of all his garden’s fare Are brassicas, to grin and bear.
Betty Fry loves butterflies, And that’s why she helps out – She sees them flutter round the plot, And wishes she could name the lot. But there is one to which she’s wise, There’s one for which she’s on the scout And where its caterpillars tread, She leaves them be and sees them fed For they shall be her silent spies To bring an end to sauerkraut, The scourge of Brussels ev’rywhere – Her Cabbage Whites shall shred them bare !
My neighbour disliked her cherry laurel And asked to borrow my saw. She offered me all the wood for my fire In exchange for my muscle and jaw. And so we chopped and chatted all morning On what we joked was her ‘ranch’. She called it an invasive species As we tackled its largest branch – She certainly didn’t remember planting the thing, So out it went (Though she waited till all its blossom had dropped Which had lasted all through lent.) I’ve heard when burned it smells of cherries, But we scented almonds that day – She said, well that’s the cyanide, Remember, this laurel’s no bay. We made fair work of its lily-white wood Till we left its stump for bare, But we still got a slight furriness in our mouths, Despite our gloves and care. I offered her a seat by my fireside Watching her tree disappear, But she said I needed to season it first, So call her up in a year.