Village Verses

Sunday 13th May 2012

LOOK out of the window when travelling through the countryside at this time of the year and the chances are you’ll see fields of rape-seed. Look on Google for the controversies surrounding it.

In 2001, a colleague and I were poets-in-residence in four Oxfordshire village shops. Half a dozen days in each led us to pen Village Verses, a 40-page collection reflecting upon the niceties and nuances of rural life.

The work ends with a coda: Return Journeys, where we both responded personally to the residency. Here’s my bit:

We have been transported back and forth
South to Standlake puddles
East to Wotton wells
North to the bricks of Kingham
And the thatch of Great Tew

We have caught trains of thought
Shown poets’ passes
To enter bell-tower and inner court
To pick up pieces and contemplate the view

Back have we journeyed into the when
And who of chance and change
Rovers over the range of lives and times
Trying to draw a millennium of lines and images
That wander across the green, down country lane
Through undergrowth until they reach… what?

An edge? A full-stop?
A stolen saddle stone that marks the borders
Saying keep out, keep in, keep only what’s in keeping
In accordance with the preservation orders
And the dictation of – get this down –
The cheque card.

Flatter than the Standlake puddle
Deeper than the Wootton well
Thicker than the Kingham brick
More pliable than the Great Tew straw
Hard cash now crops the village verges and those shops
Where we did but linger with our moving finger
And, having writ, return to towns where urban yobs
Dream of lottery wins or highly-paid executive jobs
With the money to buy the privilege
Of the honey in the sky of the village.

As the early summer migration starts
With flocks arriving seeking the photograph
And the keepsake rural autograph
We catch the once-a-week bus that carries
Half a dozen pensioners to market and back

Through the window we see
A bright golden haze on the meadow
That seems to be just too loud a shade of yellow
And for a moment we want to cry, “Rape!”







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