Covid-19 Life in the home lane

Posted: 17 April 2020

Poem received this morning from John Fanshawe |


Swifts by Ted Hughes

Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts

Materialize at the tip of a long scream

Of needle. ‘Look! They’re back! Look!’ And they’re gone

On a steep


Controlled scream of skid

Round the house-end and away under the cherries. Gone.

Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together,

Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening


For air-chills – are they too early? With a bowing

Power-thrust to left, then to right, then a flicker they

Tilt into a slide, a tremble for balance,

Then a lashing down disappearance


Behind elms.

They’ve made it again,

Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s

Still waking refreshed, our summer’s

Still all to come _–

And here they are, here they are again

Erupting across yard stones

Shrapnel-scatter terror. Frog-gapers,

Speedway goggles, international mobsters —


A bolas of three or four wire screams

Jockeying across each other

On their switchback wheel of death.

They swat past, hard-fletched


Veer on the hard air, toss up over the roof,

And are gone again. Their mole-dark labouring,

Their lunatic limber scramming frenzy

And their whirling blades


Sparkle out into blue —

Not ours any more.

Rats ransacked their nests so now they shun us.

Round luckier houses now

They crowd their evening dirt-track meetings,


Racing their discords, screaming as if speed-burned,

Head-height, clipping the doorway

With their leaden velocity and their butterfly lightness,

Their too much power, their arrow-thwack into the eaves.


Every year a first-fling, nearly flying

Misfit flopped in our yard,

Groggily somersaulting to get airborne.

He bat-crawled on his tiny useless feet, tangling his flails


Like a broken toy, and shrieking thinly

Till I tossed him up — then suddenly he flowed away under

His bowed shoulders of enormous swimming power,

Slid away along levels wobbling


On the fine wire they have reduced life to,

And crashed among the raspberries.

Then followed fiery hospital hours

In a kitchen. The moustached goblin savage


Nested in a scarf. The bright blank

Blind, like an angel, to my meat-crumbs and flies.

Then eyelids resting. Wasted clingers curled.

The inevitable balsa death.

Finally burial

For the husk

Of my little Apollo —


The charred scream

Folded in its huge power.