They picked the cherries

Mid January; low sun
Cold sun, weak rays
Refracted through murk;
Yet, the bounteous summer
Shines on our shop shelves –
Raspberries, strawberries
Flushed with nitrogen;
Boxed and batched
Shoulder to shoulder
In discounted ranks
Standing to attention
In New Year multi-buys.
The paths of commerce
Changing the Earth’s angle of tilt
Removing the seasons,
Removing nature’s harvest time;
Making the special, ordinary
Disconnecting us
From the orbit and amplitude
Of our home.

Down on the lay-by
Next to where the early morning
Mini-bus gathers up its
Crowded workers from their
Crowded flats,
Two girls, giggled
Slavic screams
Of joy, aimed up high;
One pulled the branch down,
The other, on tip-toes
Tipped the fruit into
Her upturned hem.
They picked the cherries
In the place they grow
Two for the pot, one for them.
They picked the cherries
Which we, in our wisdom
Let lie, go to waste
Bird food now, our riches
Squandered, for a January
Pavlova or March Eton Mess.


Four ages of snow

First, the hush.
The soft cotton-wool drifting
Landing, feet together,
A parachutist behind the lines
At first, a hiss, just faint
On the edge of sound
Then blanket quiet
Hide and seek; under the duvet
Muffled whispers, low breathing
Nothing more

Next the crush.
That swaddling coat
Insulating, hiding, trapping
Winter’s hug; warmth below
Cold above; frigid cold
Like musical statues
Dead still, the White Witch’s curse
That east wind from the Steppe.
And cold sets the snow
Below soles: crunch, crack, creak

The slush; from a world
Of soft edges, smudged details
Comes the hard edge
Of melt; of grime, of grit
Of rubbed-in dirt
Smeared eskers of ice
Trampled by boot and paw, by tyre and tread.
I dream: the crushed ice
Scooped into my Iced Tea
On a far off beach

The gush of melt
Himalaya; Karakoram; Alps
Milk white and blue streams
Suspensions of dust rippling away
Down the edges of highways.
No bright painted bunting here
No mountain sanctuaries
Not here in this Mercian street
Where all joy of Saturnalia has passed
We wait for the Equinox

Fifty Two Oaks

Up in the wood, I counted them,
I counted fifty two oaks
One oak for every week
One oak for each furlong between here
And the edge of the Needwood
One oak for the rhythmic patter of time
As the year has seeped like grains through my fingers
One for each lot of weekly earth-rotations
One for each acorn, greedily snaffled and stuffed
Into the saggy pouch cheeks of the cheeky squirrel

One of them stands alone though
On a field boundary long gone, long rent
And each week I steal a photograph
When it’s not looking
In Winter, it is architectural, formly, strong
In Spring, a sappy burst of life, leaves like measles
In Summer, it wears a sculptural overcoat of green
Before Autumn’s striptease
The oak has it the wrong way round
When the sap rises, surely it should strip, ready for action?
But no, this oak goes bare in Winter
Like a hardy, shirtless football fan
Or a naked sprint to a snowbound sauna