Poem A Day Prompt: GO OUTDOORS

highfields-boating-lakeSince I’ve moved to Nottingham, I’ve fallen a little bit in love with Highfields Park and the lake, which sits at the edge of Nottingham University campus.

Over the past six months, we’ve been on plenty of walks and runs around its perimeter (and hired a rowing boat once), but the past couple of days have been so gorgeous that I’ve been able to sit in the sunshine and write.

Part of me feels a bit hypocritical, after having always considered people writing on laptops in public to be a bit wanky. But one thing I’ve learned this year – having so much self directed time – is that spending every day in your own house, with no need to change out of your pyjamas, is not as brilliant as it sounds. In fact, you can end up feeling a bit stir crazy, and definitely not so motivated to write.

So this morning I got up and out by 8am and headed to the lake. I sat with my wanky coffee and wanky laptop and started writing, expecting to come out with something Wordsworth or Blake might be happy with, reflective of my verdant, tranquil surroundings.

Instead, I spent an hour staring at a little island on the lake and thinking about the scary geese that lived there, and wrote the following poem about the goose mafia that I imagine run this joint.

Emily x

Highfields Park Waterfall, Nottingham

Goose Island

Fuck off mate,
this is Goose Island.
No duck-heads allowed.
Tell me: which part of
‘Goose Island’
suggests we welcome
your crowd?
We earned this place.
Won it, fair and square.
So go on, sling yer
ducky hook,
take yer begging elsewhere.
You chancing mallard bastards:
you’re all the bloody same.
Green headed hooligans,
the lot of yer. Yeah,
I know your game!
And why should I care, exactly,
if you saw a tufted duck
stopping by?
Not that I feel obliged
in any way to tell you,
but it’s a business thing.
A protection racket,
if you will.
They pay their bills.
We watch their backs,
and that’s it.
See, Tufty’s bright.
He keeps himself to himself.
Him and the grebes,
I don’t mind them.
They know what side
their bread floats.
They’re alright.
Not like you mallard wankers!
Now get out of my sight,
before you get
the sharp side of my tongue.
My ganders are roosting;
they need some peace and quiet.
And if you disturb our goslings
you’ll have bigger fish to fry.
Sorry, mixed metaphor.
Yeah, the Barnacle Boys, that’s right.
Go on, shake a tail feather,
before the lads shake it for you.
Protection for you, mate?
Are you yanking my beak?
Not to state the obvious pal
but right now, as we speak
you’re waddling in
the nest of the beast.
If you’ll pardon the expression.
You’ll need an ambulance,
not protection,
if you keep on with this quacking.
The SWANS?!?!
Bruv you’re tripping,
you’ve been on the flippin’
pond-water again.
Swans and geese
look out for each other pal.
No, I wouldn’t say we’re friends
but it’s an arrangement,
It’s what you’d aim for
with the coots, mate,
if you had any sense.
Try some ducks your own size,
lower your sights.
Try the riverbank by the café
You’ll get a few pity bites.
Toddlers and OAPs,
that’s your target group.
I mean you ever see a human
cower from a bird your size?
Well get this: the other day
I hustled curly fries
AND a meatball sub.
Just from one well-placed hiss!
No there isn’t any left, pal.
Are you takin’ the piss?!
Now go on,
I don’t wanna see your type
paddling round here again.
And from now on,
just you remember
the pecking order,
my feathered friend!

Poem A Day Prompt: Writing About Nature

When I lived in Saigon, where I never once needed to ask myself the question: ‘will I need a cardi?’ when I left the front door, it was difficult to remember why I or other British people got excited about English summer weather. We spend so much of the year in the dark, trapped inside by rain or cold, moaning about how grim everything is. And even on the best of days, you’d be a fool to leave the house without emergency layers.

But yesterday was one of those days, weather wise, that restored my faith in the seasons of England. I can’t deny I loved the constant warmth and humidity of Vietnam, but there’s another kind of loveliness to weather that makes you wait, and the palpable glee in the air that it’s finally here, the warm weather and long evenings are here at last.

I’m lucky to live right next to Attenborough Nature Reserve, and so yesterday I went there (twice) to enjoy the good weather. So did a whole host of other runners, cyclists, families and bird watchers, not to mention the countless birds they were watching.

I decided to write a poem today which attempts to recreate the atmosphere of yesterday, because I find nature poetry difficult but often love to read it. Also, because it’s not often we get a day that feels like that – the communal joy of summer weather – and I wanted to find a way to make it last.

Emily x

Attenborough Nature Reserve (credit to Lorna Griffiths).

Cruel Winter, Cruel Summer
It arrives unannounced, one evening in April.
One day ago we’d sworn we were leaving for good.
Now we wonder why we lamented the endless winter:
nothing could make us turn our backs on this.
The first kiss of summer. We first walk then run
along the canal path dovetailed with the river Trent.
We aren’t alone. For once, the geese and swans
leave the fishermen to enjoy the golden hour bliss.
The daffodils hold buttercups to their smiling chins
at the Marina. Chromatic tulips queue for ice creams.
Olympic midges weave and dive in pub garden air
barbecue thick with play park shrieking and amber ale.
We press on along the gravel path, latticed with butter light,
past the pale, patient moon; the defiant, blazing sun.
Plovers and oyster catchers wade in evening baths.
We pass a heron, shadow still. A cobalt kingfisher flash.
T shirt runners and cyclists are out of hibernation
and the sand martins pilgrimage is over at last.
We pause at a kissing gate to breathe a sigh of relief.
The cruel winter is over. For now, summer’s back.