Poems

Heatwave

A sequel to Primroses, started a year ago today.

The swallows have made their beds,
So now the swifts are here,

We just caught a glimpse of them
Two or three
Just as I was going away.
I have to admit,
I’m not sure how to tell a swift from a swallow
Except for the tail,
But then how do I know
It’s not a house martin or a sand martin?
I want to get better at recognising birds
And I suppose I will with time,
But I’m impatient,
I want to know now.

I came back here,
And I’d been away so long,
That before I left there had only been blossom on the trees,
But now they all have leaves,
Green and voluptuous and luxurious,
Like a miracle.
It’s much warmer here too.
I’d been hoping for warmth for so long,
But now that I’ve got it I’m not quite ready,
And I just feel uncomfortable.

I’ve not been brave enough
To look at the ground beneath me.
I’m staring at the horizon,
Though it’s blurry and miles away.
And I’m utterly convinced
That I can make out the shapes of trees and lakes,
And I’m not thinking about how I’ll walk there.
That was before the heatwave came.

I was looking for parakeets.
I want to see them.
I know I shouldn’t.
I went out, not really to look for them,
But I have to admit it was in the back of my mind.
I wasn’t sure if I could hear them,
I couldn’t remember what they sounded like.
I craned up at the sky and the trees.
I think I caught a glimpse of something,
But perhaps it was just magpies,
Three for a girl.
I shouldn’t have been disappointed.
Why shouldn’t I look for parakeets?
They’re not native.
They’ll kill off our other birds,
Our swallows and swifts.
Even the magpies are better, really.
If you see a lone magpie,
And you don’t want the sorrow,
You can ask him where’s his mate,
To ward it off.
But these days I don’t bother to ask.
We all know she’s nowhere to be seen.

You will be pleased to know
That I went out again
And didn’t see them.
I didn’t even remember them
Until I got there,
And I looked for a little while,
But I didn’t even hear them this time.
It started to rain,
So I went and waited under the trees.
They were stood in a line
Right down the length of the park
And the leaves were all out
Because it’s summer,
And I realised I could walk between them
Without getting wet.
They carried me all the way home.
I saw more swifts.
I had to look them up later,
To double-check,
But I’m fairly sure I’m right.
And so I keep walking through the world,
Safe in the knowledge
That the swifts are swimming above me.

Header: view of blossom from my flat in Bethnal Green, London, spring 2014.

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