This is the wind, the wind in a field of corn.
Great crowds are fleeing from a major disaster
Down the long valleys, the green swaying wadis,
Down through the beautiful catastrophe of wind.

Families, tribes, nations and their livestock
Have heard something, seen something. An expectation
Or a gigantic misunderstanding has swept over the hilltop
Bending the ear of the hedgerow with stories of fire and sword.

I saw a thousand years pass in two seconds.
Land was lost, languages rose and divided.
This lord went east and found safety.
His brother sought Africa and a dish of aloes.

Centuries, minutes later, one might ask
How the hilt of a sword wandered so far from the smithy.
And somewhere they will sing: 'Like chaff we were borne
In the wind.' This is the wind in a field of corn.

From New Selected Poems (Penguin, 2006), copyright © James Fenton 2006, used by permission of the author and the publisher.


James Fenton

James Fenton Reading From His Poems

1For Andrew Wood


3Out of the East

4Children in Exile

5Blood and Lead


7The Milkfish Gatherers

8The Ballad of the Shrieking Man

9Cut-Throat Christ

10The Mistake

11Out of Danger

12The Skip

13In Paris with You

14I'll Explain

15The Possibility


17Here Come the Drum Majorettes!

18Yellow Tulips