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

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Recordings

Alison Brackenbury

Alison Brackenbury Downloads

1Honeycomb

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2Lapwings

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3On The Aerial

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4At The Beginning

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5Provision

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6After the X-ray

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7At Eighty

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8Dickens - A Daydream

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9In The Black Country

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10Overnight

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12No

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12Rented Rooms

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13The Beanfields Scent

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14Linum

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15The Spring at Chedworth

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16Edward Thomas’ Daughter

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17Xerxes, an Opera

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

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19Prepositions

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20Display

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21After Beethoven

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22Puff

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23Epigrams

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24The Nymph Considers the Garden

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25The Trent Rises, 1947

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26Bookkeeping

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27On the Move

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28Money

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30Apple Country

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31Robert Brackenbury

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32High Notes

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33Hill Mist

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34Three

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35Christmas Roses

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36December 25th, 12 noon

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37Bath Cubes

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38The Blue Door

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39At Needlehole

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40Tewkesbury

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41Flood

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42Scraper

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43Wilfred Owen at the Advanced Horse Transport Depot, 1917

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44On The Boards

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29The House

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Books by Alison Brackenbury