Poem introduction

Although I have lived in Gloucestershire since the 1970s, I grew up in Lincolnshire, the flattish bit at the top of East Anglia. My father started work as a ploughboy, just like the poet, John Clare. Like Clare, he saw a farming revolution. Chemicals improved yields, but destroyed hawks and cowslips. But the farmers of my youth did not grow winter corn, so the spring corn was still short enough for the nests of the birds in the next poem, the sun.

Lapwings

They were everywhere.  No.  Just God or smoke
is that.  They were the backdrop to the road,
 
My parents’ home, the heavy winter fields
from which they flashed and kindled and uprode
 
the air in dozens.  I ignored them all.
‘What are they?’  ‘Oh – peewits – ‘  Then a hare flowed,
 
bounded the furrows.  Marriage.  Child.  I roamed
round other farms.  I only knew them gone
 
when, out of a sad winter, one returned.
I heard the high mocked cry ‘Pee – wit , ‘ so long
 
cut dead.  I watched it buckle from vast air
to lure hawks from its chicks.  That time had gone.
 
Gravely, the parents bobbed their strip of stubble.
How had I let this green and purple pass?
 
Fringed, plumed heads (full name, the crested plover)
fluttered. So crowned cranes stalk Kenyan grass.
 
Then their one child, their anxious care, came running,
squeaked along each furrow, dauntless, daft.
 
Did I once know the story of their lives,
do they migrate from Spain?  or coasts’ cold run?
 
And I forgot their massive arcs of wing.
When their raw cries swept over, my head spun
 
With all the brilliance of their black and white
As though you cracked the dark and found the sun.

from Then (Bloodaxe, 2013) © Alison Brackenbury 2013, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Recordings

Alison Brackenbury Reading from her Poems

1Honeycomb

2Lapwings

3On The Aerial

4At The Beginning

5Provision

6After the X-ray

7At Eighty

8Dickens - A Daydream

9In The Black Country

10Overnight

11No

12Rented Rooms

13The Beanfields Scent

14Linum

15The Spring at Chedworth

16Edward Thomas’ Daughter

17Xerxes, an Opera

18Yesterday Vivaldi visited me, and sold me some very expensive concerto’s

19Prepositions

20Display

21After Beethoven

22Puff

23Epigrams

24The Nymph Considers the Garden

25The Trent Rises, 1947

26Bookkeeping

27On the Move

28Money

29The House

30Apple Country

31Robert Brackenbury

32High Notes

33Hill Mist

34Three

35Christmas Roses

36December 25th, 12 noon

37Bath Cubes

38The Blue Door

39At Needlehole

40Tewkesbury

41Flood

42Scraper

43Wilfred Owen at the Advanced Horse Transport Depot, 1917

44On The Boards

Books by Alison Brackenbury