Saturday, 16 July 2011

Ted Hughes - Last Load

Baled hay out in a field
Five miles from home. Barometer falling.
A muffler of still cloud padding the stillness
The day after day of blue scorch up to yesterday
The heavens of dazzling iron, that seemed unalterable
Hard now to remember.

Now, tractor bounding along lanes, among echoes
The trailer bouncing, all its iron shouting
Under sag heavy leaves
That seem ready to drip with stillness
Cheek in the air alert for the first speck.

You feel sure the rain's already started
But for the tractor's din you'd hear it hushing
In all the leaves. But still not one drop
On your face or arm. You cant believe it.
The hoicking bales, as if at a contest. Leaping
On and off the tractor as at a rodeo.

Hurling the bales higher. The loader on top
Dodging like a monkey. The fifth layer full
Then a tettering sixth. Then for a seventh
A row down the middle. And if a bale topples
You feel you've lost those seconds forever
Then roping it all tight, like a hard loaf.

Then fast as you dare, watching the sky
And watching the load, and feeling the air darken
With wet electricity
The load foaming through leaves, and wallowing
Like a tug-boat meeting the open sea
The tractor's front wheels rearing up, as you race
And pawing the air. Then all hands
Pitching the bales off, under a roof
Anyhow, then back for the last load.

And now as you dash through the green light
You see between dark trees
On all the little emerald hills
The desperate loading, under the blue cloud

Your sweat tracks through your dust, your shirt flaps chill
And bales multiply out of each other
And down the shorn field ahead
The faster you fling them up, the more there are of them
Till suddendly the field's grey empty. It's finished

And a tobacco reek breaks in your nostrils
As the rain begins
Softly and vertically silver, the whole sky softly
Falling into the stubble all round you

The trees shake out their masses, joyful
Drinking the downpour
The hills pearled, the whole distance drinking
And the earth-smell warm and thick as smoke

And you go, and over the whole land
Like singing heard across evening water
The tall loads are swaying towards their barns
Down the deep lanes

© Ted Hughes 1975

The Outside Toilet

Autumn’s last children lay in the corner
Bereft of branch and blown off life
To lie here dry and dead
In this shed behind the midden by the byre

No path no light but hope for a shite
The hurricane lamp drunkingly dancing the night
Stumbling past slumbering henhouses all in a row
Its straw snug citizens pecking warm-wormed dreams

The wind carved bush, finger to the sea
“ That way young man “
The cold clutch of the mil-dewed, white-washed walls
Clamouring, clamouring, “Come in Come in”

Stout latch wind-shut,
cold throne sat,
sharp paper safe
Safe amid the wild wild world

© 2009 Mervyn Cooke