Monday, 8 May 2017

Swifts, Harbingers of Summer

If one bird really says summer to me it's the swift, just about the last of our summer visitors to appear.
A party of four were scything through the air over the sheep paddock this morning, my first of the year. Despite a day which struggled above 10 degrees with a chilling northerly wind, the swifts still screamed "SUMMER".
It's amazing how quickly the seasons pass. For I am now sowing the tender vegetables, the sweetcorn and beans and with that the rush of sowing comes to an end so soon after it started. There are still a few lesser crops to sow and some succession sowing to be done, but for the next month the emphasis is on getting seedlings into the outdoor beds and keeping those beds weed free.
So, in honour of the swift, I present "Swifts" by Ted Hughes

Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts
Materialize at the tip of a long scream
Of needle. ‘Look! They’re back! Look!’ And they’re gone
On a steep

Controlled scream of skid
Round the house-end and away under the cherries. Gone.
Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together,
Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening

For air-chills – are they too early? With a bowing
Power-thrust to left, then to right, then a flicker they
Tilt into a slide, a tremble for balance,
Then a lashing down disappearance

Behind elms.
They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come --
And here they are, here they are again
Erupting across yard stones
Shrapnel-scatter terror. Frog-gapers,
Speedway goggles, international mobsters --

A bolas of three or four wire screams
Jockeying across each other
On their switchback wheel of death.
They swat past, hard-fletched

Veer on the hard air, toss up over the roof,
And are gone again. Their mole-dark labouring,
Their lunatic limber scramming frenzy
And their whirling blades

Sparkle out into blue --
Not ours any more.
Rats ransacked their nests so now they shun us.
Round luckier houses now
They crowd their evening dirt-track meetings,

Racing their discords, screaming as if speed-burned,
Head-height, clipping the doorway
With their leaden velocity and their butterfly lightness,
Their too much power, their arrow-thwack into the eaves.

Every year a first-fling, nearly flying
Misfit flopped in our yard,
Groggily somersaulting to get airborne.
He bat-crawled on his tiny useless feet, tangling his flails

Like a broken toy, and shrieking thinly
Till I tossed him up — then suddenly he flowed away under
His bowed shoulders of enormous swimming power,
Slid away along levels wobbling

On the fine wire they have reduced life to,
And crashed among the raspberries.
Then followed fiery hospital hours
In a kitchen. The moustached goblin savage

Nested in a scarf. The bright blank
Blind, like an angel, to my meat-crumbs and flies.
Then eyelids resting. Wasted clingers curled.
The inevitable balsa death.
Finally burial
For the husk
Of my little Apollo --

The charred scream
Folded in its huge power.


Sorry for the sad ending, but that description in the first half of the poem just captures the swift so evocatively.
Before we know it they'll have screamed, careered, fed and bred and be speeding their way south again, taking summer with them

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave comments. They are really valued.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Click here to follow my blog

Follow by Email