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High Summer, These Islands


Glimpse through gates left open along an upland drive
Hay being saved the old way in mountain meadows,
Scraps of sunshine strewn along the tarmacadam.
And carried on the breeze, the clatter of a mowing machine.
Over barns and gardens swallows dip and weave,
Swallows teaching the blue sky freedom.
Heraldic wild roses, unthought-of at first and unseen,
Bloom in the ditches, and gladden the eye that sees them.

High summer in these islands.
Along hedgerows where wrens and thrushes lodge,
Plumes of meadowsweet follow the uncharitably named
Cow parsley and the lacquered porcelain cups
Of the celandines—the lesser and the greater—
Back through every feast day of the livelong summer,
Back to the first spring primrose and cowslips,
Coloured and scented like a gentleman’s glove.

From centre court at Wimbledon the plock of a volleyed ball
Spills out through the airwaves into airy
Gardens on the archipelago’s furthest edges
Where the westering sun dips into the sea
And someone weeds a row of poppies.
The same clouds drift over both islands.
Everyone takes a breather
In this summer fantasia, this dream of fair weather.


Richard Tillinghast

The New Criterion

February 2012


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