nature blue animal transparent
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Zigger-buzzing, flitter-flying,
To and fro and fro and to –
A dragonfly is zagging-by,
His body shiny-new.
Ready for the slaughter,
With his goggles on and paint-job dry –
For three years, underwater,
He has somehow learned to fly.

A fighter jet, a microlight,
With wings of cellophane –
Drunk yet nimble in his flight,
He circles round, and round again.
A regal blur, a day-glow streak,
Who never rests from his deploy –
But when he does, he’s plastic-sleek:
This summer’s latest toy.

I meet him, though, in hot July,
Some distance from the river bank.
So jealous in his patch of sky,
He watches for a rival’s flank –
But they won’t come, and neither will
The ladies that he’s longing for.
So here he is, patrolling still:
A soldier who’s misplaced his war.



The Ant-Days of Summer

flying ant


The Ant-Days of Summer

I think it must have been a day
When ants were flying
In July.
A long and hot and wingèd day
When ants were flying
By and by.
And that was when we chanced to meet,
With grounded ants about our feet.

Those virgin queens and horny males,
On scorching days
In late July.
The queens fly fast to test the males
On scorching days
When ants must fly.
The lads were swarming when we met –
But then, one shot is all they get.

The lucky males take turns to mate
With picky queens
In late July.
Upon the wing, the ants shall mate –
As jacks and queens
Shall fill the sky.
And I met you beneath their flights,
With royal weddings in our sights.

The girls bite off their wings to reign
As wingless queens
In late July
These girls will never fly again –
But hey, the queens
At least don’t die !
And you and I were changing lives,
As queens got down to digging hives.



Summer Block

clear glass cup with fruits and water inside beside slice fruitas
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Summer Block

Ah, the lazy days of Summer:
Long and languid afternoons,
When cares are short and drinks are tall,
And lives are endless honeymoons.
So who would sweat on metric feet,
To try to pen a tricky rhyme ?
Just close the jotters, pencils down,
And let it go.  It’s not the time.

On such a scorching hummer
When our cares are short and drinks are tall,
And lives are endless honeymoons,
Then no-one thirsts for verse at all.
So let it go, it’s not the time –
Just close the jotters, pencils down.
Our brains would only overheat.
If assonance should raise a frown.

On long and languid afternoons,
Just who would sweat on metric feet
When no-one thirsts for verse at all ?
Our brains would only overheat.
Don’t try to pen a tricky rhyme
On such a scorching hummer.
No assonance should raise a frown
On the lazy days of Summer.



Saint Random’s Day

appointment black calendar countdown
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Saint Random’s Day

The 6th of June is ev’rywhere, it seems,
It always turns up sev’ral times a year.
This av’rage summer day has gained the fate
Of being ev’rybody’s av’rage date.
The 6th of June has crept into our dreams –
So was it Swedes who whispered in our ear ?,
Or maybe D-Day’s up to his old tricks ?,
Or has the Devil claimed oh-six-oh-six ?



Mayfly Days



Mayfly Days

“Mayflies are unique among insects in having a penultimate ‘subimago’ stage, which like the adult has wings, but unlike the adult has no genitals.”
                                                                                                           Arthropod Quarterly Digest

All throughout each teenage year,
I spend my evenings by the brook –
In Spring I love to dawdle here
To watch the ducks or read a book.
I sometimes bring some fishing gear,
Though rarely bother with a hook.
My friends pair-off in woods or laybys,
I, though, spend my time with mayflies.

We are a lot alike, Ephemeroptera.
We spent our childhoods trapped within backwater gloom,
Just waiting for that feeling that it’s time to bloom –
But when we shed our skins and gain our wings,
What did we find, Ephemeroptera ?
Our flight is drunken and unsteady,
Bodies new are strange and heady,
Maybe we are not so ready yet,
To put away our childhood things.
But on it comes: from nymph to fly –
To moult, to mate, to lay our eggs, and die.

We’re subimago adolescents,
Buzzing with a shared frustration,
Trapped within the boring present
Waiting for our next gestation –
Damn, the urge is so incessant,
Yet we cannot reach elation !
Metamorphosis, you cheat,
We’re naiads still and incomplete !

I know a lot about Ephemeroptera,
These One-Day Wings that flit and dart about the creek.
I spend my teenage evenings watching, week by week,
While all the while, my classmates grow up too.
I ought to leave, Ephemeroptera,
I ought to leave, but I’m afraid:
I still do not feel fully made.
And so I watch you rise and fade,
And wonder when my final moult is due.
Will I change soon, oh Flies of May ?,
To start the years that form my final day.



To expand on the quotation in the epigraph, mayflies are primitive insects that have changed far less than those restless ants and beetles.  They show little difference between nymph and adult (well, except that the former lives in water and has no wings), and most bizarrely they have two consecutive flying stages.  If you see any other insect with wings, then it is an adult and will never shed it’s exoskeleton or pupate again.  Perhaps those giant early griffinflies of the Permian also had two (or more) instars on the wing – they were after all comtemporaries of the first mayflies.  Or perhaps it’s a later mutation that avoids having to build both wings and genitls in one hit without the benefit of a lengthy pupation.

Anyway, when it is time, the nymph pulls itself out of the water either onto the water tension of the surface, or up some vegetation stalks.  There it rests, moults, and dries its cloudy new wings – these already contain the adult wings within them which are revealed when that cloudy layer is shed.  In a few species, the females stop here and never make the final moult, while in others the females can survive for a couple of weeks – long enough for their already-getated eggs to hatch the moment she lays them on the water surface, so in terms of the poem calling them ‘one-day wings’ might be a little disengenuous, but hell, it’s too good a line to drop.  A friend also suggested that I had my metaphor the wrong waya bout – teenagers aren’t subimagos because they do have the hormones, they just don’t have the transport.



Month of Fertility

Floréal by Louis Lafitte


Month of Fertility

From Penny Blacks to Let It Be,
The launch of the National Gallery,
The trial and death of Anne Boleyn,
And Celtic’s European win.
The English Commonwealth declared,
And Dracula has readers scared,
John Cabot and the Matthew sail,
Oscar Wilde and Reading Gaol.
The sudden Indian Mutiny,
The abolition of slavery,
Jenner finds the smallpox fix,
And the General Strike of ’26.
The Good Friday Accord endorsed,
Henry and Katherine get divorced,
Pagan rites and Labour Day:
All in the glorious month of May.

Behold the very height of spring,
When Simon de Montfort topples the king,
With Black Narcissus at the flicks,
And Big Ben’s clock begins its ticks.
Paint it Black is number one,
And City of Truro reaches the ton,
Joan of Arc gets burned alive,
And VE Day in ’45.
The restoration of Charlie Two,
Everest conquered, and what a view !
The first election where ev’ryone votes,
And rescue by the Dunkirk boats.
The Crown Jewels pinched while the Tower sleeps,
The final entry of Samuel Pepys,
The printing of Mrs Dalloway:
All in those thirty-one days of May.



I don’t think it would have been possible to even write this poem before Wikipedia !



Tags: Poetry Poem May