In the Dining Hall at Christ’s Hospital. Photograph by Angela Jane Swinn

Racing the Reaper Man

In hallowed halls I stopped to think,
From windows Spring’s sun shone on me,
And there I sat amidst the wise,
Old heads looked down and made me see,
The Reaper Man is there to race,
And he is bearing down on me,
I have to Race the Reaper Man,
And every step will keep me free.


Summer’s sun beats upon the land,
The golden orb the hammer,
The dusty land the anvil,
Flowers are sparks,
Wrought from the iron ground,
Morning mist lifts in the heat,
As quenching steam beside the forge,
Night brings the lights,
From a billion hammers,
A trillion anvils,
No blacksmith,
Only the universe.


White, bright morning sky.
The horizon shrugs,
A veil, then tangent,
Then thrusting hand,
Lifting the disc into sight,
The darkling vale wakes,
Fills with milky mist,
Shrugs in turn,
Greets the day,
Heralded by a clapping,
As pigeons kerdackle,
Into the day,
From inky haws,
Laden with autumn’s fare.


The Earth tilts away,
Autumn’s cloak pulls ever tighter,
Creatures flee south,
Or hunker to the growing chill,
And wait ever longer for the light,
To rise in leaden skies,
To kiss the darkened land,
Giving memory of sleeping life,
In tiny hearts,
Beating snug beneath the earth,
Life’s embers waiting,
To wake.

From a train

In the east the cathedral spire,
Pierces the grey clouds,
Blown from distant seas.
A silver sunburst of light,
And dawn’s creator,
Faded, filtered yellow,
Turns the God-house black,
Against a stormy sky.
The energy of spring,
Pushes ‘gainst the cold,
As Winter still stalks the land.
Even as trees sleep,
Sketched charcoal skeletons,
A single swallow,
Gives hope.

Late Spring

Late wakes the Spring this year,
False starts of warmth,
Cut short by chill,
Stymied, halted, tied on a leash,
Let free to bloom,
Then brought up short,
Til everything in the race for life is equal:
Bluebells with ramsons;
Wheatears with swifts;
Whimbrels and widgeon.
Once these never met,
Now strangers are companions,
A short while every year,
Each ones north in a different place,
Here is start and end, in migration’s race.



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