Elmstead Woods

In August the buddleia finally pushes

electric purple heads to the third rail,

a wave of dancers – jewelled feathers

that bow with every passing train;

the sun pounds on crisp yellow fires of

cooch grass, and the willowherb splits

and keels to toss new year to the ballast.


We stop, we start and then

we come to Elmstead Woods.

There humanity waits in a romance, cut into the hill

beyond twin jowls of tunnel brick.

A man reads his paper by the trellised arbour,

breathing deep, looking to the sky, looking out along the line.

A woman rests her heels on granite sett steps,

two blocks askew on the little earth bank.

There’s a pegged-out circle of short cut beeches and a

low picket fence around the petite pond,

and a mown lawn with stone borders.

And roses, white roses, headed and tended, pruned and trimmed.

Static, unmoved, they call, they smile.


Those bedfellows the cultivated honeysuckle and wild convolvulus

play a cheerful choke. At about this time of year

the happy old winders are flailing and splaying

across every garden wall, leading across weeds,

chewing through the grass and slithering to the stems.

Looking up to the sky, looking down to revolution, they gyrate silently

like gibbons that have been locked away for quite some time

before breaking heavenward in another climb.

Summer is the time for them. The sunshine brings them out,

makes them grow, makes them think,

makes them love, makes them war.