The custom of the country

For the NaPoWriMo prompt, looking at a meadow not with the eyes of a developer.



bounded by hedge and stream

and tall trees swaying

not grass, not much,

but flowers

buttercup dandelion vetch flax bugle salsify and orchids.

So many orchids.

Pasture never worked

never ploughed

a piece of ancient farmland

untouched except by hoof,

and the swift pads of hare and fox.

Rodent-burrowed and fissured by contraction

into tiny tectonic plates

running with water

seeping hollows full of marsh plants.

History treads here

silent as nightfolk

holding its breath

for the future is coming.


The future sees building plot

house in breeze blocks and pvc

swimming pool and shaved lawn.

Does anyone care

if the nightingales will still sing

in Monsanto-perfumed air?

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

20 thoughts on “The custom of the country”

  1. Oh this is beautiful. It sets a perfect vision of this beautiful meadow, and what’s lost, and the carelessness with which it’s regarded. And I know the feeling well–just last week my husband and I were strolling through a nearby park that already had markers set for an upcoming construction project, a whole new development in the works that would take up all the land currently occupied by trees and flowers and wildlife.

    1. We bought a farmhouse with about five acres of land a couple of years ago that was already here when the first maps of the area were made in the eighteenth century. The land has never been used for anything but pasture land and for the last forty years, it hasn’t been used for anything but hay. It has never had any chemical product used on it and is a mass of wild flowers and orchids. In theory it isn’t building land, but we know the neighbours who have bought a corner of farmland next to ours are hoping the classification will change so they can build on it. It’s so depressing what they want to do, like the house they already have, all pvc and plastic and the kind of garden where a weed dare not show its face.

      1. That is sad. It’s some reassurance to know it isn’t currently building land, and hopefully that won’t change. It would be such a waste of beautiful land. I’m sure some people would say to have land sit there and not be built on is a waste, but untouched land is such a treasure and it’s getting rarer.

      2. It’s history in the same way as a building is. Agriculture has changed so much, the corners that haven’t had fertilizer and pesticides poured on them ever should be left alone.

  2. The future is coming indeed. You’ve painted such a stark, poignant image, Jane! So many turns of vivid phrase! Sadly it’s only too true – here, we’ve recently had a massive court case involving developers who want to build on a park reserve in the city. It is still ongoing, and the outcome…isn’t looking very good. Greed – that’s the root of all of it, greed and money go hand in hand unfortunately when it comes to development, a lot of times!

    I decided, screw it, I will catch up on the truant 3 days of poems as I go, and jumped right into today’s Day 17. Fair warning, it’s pretty morbid…

    1. Property developers are slippery customers. If they wanted to build to house the people who need homes it would be understandable, but usually it’s to build luxury apartments for people who don’t need them.

      I like your honest bones. My kind of poem.

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