For there has to be a place you go
To hear the word spoken –
Call it the green place under the blue –
Though even here it is seldom heard
Because of what is always too much with us,
Even in the mind, or it is not the true silence.
But pity those who are never alone even in their heads
For the piercing demands of their cellmates
Or the inescapable tinnitus of the times –
Who know nothing of the silent place but seek it blindly
In the unlocked heart of a capsule
Or dissolved in sunlight and booze. Pity us all
Who crouch beneath this tree where no shade is to be had –
Whose only fruits are an unripening despair
And an imperishable hope.
On a particular day in November, the leaves
of the tall chestnut tree
into starlings and (in the excitement
of their metamorphosis)
set up a shrill music: a jostling
of old bedsprings,
a recorded multitude
of water-features played at double speed.
They sit around for a bit and then fly off,
squealing and wheeling – while it only remains
for the tree, bereft, to watch their coloured shadows
blink out, one by one, at its muddy feet.
The Rambler’s Prayer
Apollo Agyleus, god of paths, roads
And the network of ways –
Protect these ancient footpaths from neglect
By those charged with their maintenance – the county,
Unitary and metropolitan district councils.
Under your guiding hand,
Let them go forth to make and mend
Stile, bridge and waymark post; and to that end
Suffuse their offices with your enabling grace.
Grant them the resources and resolve
To prosecute all those who flout the law
(Believing that their ownership of land
Absolves them), those who desecrate your ways
With barbed wire fences, padlocks and old iron.
Condemn the owners of incontinent dogs
Who merely stand and watch and then move on.
Confound the farmer who binds fast his gates
With wispy orange string
(For the complexity of his knots would baffle
Even Houdini). Blight the crops he sows
On ploughed-up paths – his regiments of maize,
Impenetrable snares of oilseed rape.
But look with kindlier eye on all who raise
Cattle, sheep and horses – take the sting
Out of their single-strand electric fence
But only where it chances to transect
Your consecrated way (a metre length
Of plastic safety tubing does the trick).
Protect all flowering and non-flowering plants –
Those species, micro-species and varieties
Too numerous to cite but each arrayed
Like Solomon – for they are the jewels
That light your web of ways (much as the dew
Illumines with its pearls the spider’s
Dawn-drawn silk): guard them from killer sprays
And all who make chemical warfare on the earth.
But keep the nettle hence that is unkind
To those who hike in shorts. Oh, yes,
And brambles too with their fierce armoury.
And did I mention thistles?
Anthony Watts has been writing ‘seriously’ for about 40 years. He has won prizes and had poems published in magazines and anthologies. His latest collection is The Shell-Gatherer http://www.overstepsbooks.com/cat/the-shell-gatherer/ His main interests are poetry, music and walking.