We had a little farm there, Meg and I,
beneath the widespread, soft-blue Norfolk sky,
along a rutted track that ran through trees,
to greenhouse, potting sheds and, half-concealed,
beyond the gusting, haunting April breeze,
a wilderness of grass, a waist-high field
of mayweed, marigolds and tormentil.
A lonely place to start, where dawn would spread
its spectral fingers through the mist, in fact
through our cramped quarters also, where we bred
long trays of butterflies. At best a tract
of market-garden wasteland and one stand
of pine trees rooting into pebbled sand.
We took what no one wanted, a scattered heap
of tires, and cardboard boxes, what was cheap
to rent, a long way out, but all the same
our point of origin, a childhood’s den
in fields and coppices, where those became
a haze of sweat and bruises. Here again
we’d go out, all hours, weeks on end—to put
the primus on at last, watch cars go by:
that well-dressed cavalcade of business suits
immaculate in cuff-link, shirt and tie
while we stood working people in our boots:
executives who knew not how or when
but had their secretaries bring tea at ten.
It seemed unlikely that a tent and shed
could keep us so contented, warm and fed
throughout no better than even bet
we'd see a penny back. Yet we stretched
tarpaulins over, watched the concrete set
as day by day the thorns and brambles etched
their criss-cross scratches on the skin. How tired
we were, but stuck it out till prospects changed.
Spring came. We planted carrots, kale
and beet along the field and road, arranged
for some, if locally, to go on sale:
Just loose change shaken from the wind and trees
we grew accustomed to, by slow degrees.
I'd always known each spread of Norfolk scrub
that came up under car-park and the pub:
and, more than that, the ache of afternoon
when nothing happens and our lives drain out
to chores and shopping, and then all too soon
to DIY and car and gardening bout:
the borders rolled out like some coloured shawl,
the little pond, the sprinklers, weeded lawns
that rise to coloured maples, stunted oaks.
Past parks and shopping malls the summer yawns
in seaside trips and picnics, but evokes
an evanescence threading into silvered haze
that slowly tarnishes through summer days.