Wildfowl on the Water, July, and A Game of Chess
Wildfowl on the Water
Four white swans and two signets, downy feathery brown
shelter in the far corner under a sycamore.
Cormorants perch on sunken logs in the middle of the lake
as the first of the migratory wild geese gather together.
A female swan calls to her brood across the water.
The signets preen themselves, halving their bodies into the water, loosening feathers.
Little white gulls with soft black tipped wings swoop and dive for fish in the lake.
The wind shakes the red berries from the Rowan Tree and I see two huntsmen
dressed in camouflage unloading guns from their car. Morning, the older one nods
but it is meant as a warning. I leave them to their sport, and walk home past the concrete
perimeter walls of the high security prison with its barred windows and barbed wire
onwards past the farmer’s field freshly ploughed, where four magpies
toss themselves to the wind and a flock of white herring gulls
congregate in the middle of the farmer’s freshly ploughed field.
July the hottest on record. The pansies
are wilting in their planters and the strawberries
shrivel in their borders, despite futile attempts to give them water.
The lawn is parched to a yellow sunburnt crisp.
The birds are parched. Young starlings gather
to drink from the blocked guttering
gargling the water greedily in their throats.
We cycle to Durham City in the heat
stopping by a cherry tree to fill a bait box
with black to bursting ripe cherries.
The juice stains my hands and fingers red.
You say it is just as well
we did not go away on holiday this year,
imagine all the midges by the lake
gathering in black swarms.
A Game of Chess
It is the beginning of the holiday
but it feels like the end of something.
At night Flybe aeroplanes disturb my dreams
with their purple butterfly wings.
We play chess with fake Lewis Chessmen.
We lie to the children, tell them the pieces are hand-carved
from walrus ivory and whale tooth.
We walk miles, climb Arthur’s Seat
stand on Salisbury Crags, we do not hold hands.
The sea stretches out for miles under a curdled buttermilk sky
and our children squabble over whose turn
it is to hold the camera. They take pictures
of the not so happy couple.
It is harder climbing up the hills
than climbing down. Neither of us speak.
The sky is blue and endless,
we put the chess game away at the end of the holiday
wrap the Lewis Chessmen in tissue paper
so that the walrus ivory and whale tooth do not break.