Blackbird harvest


On the vine the grapes are almost ripe.
Plump purple bunches
Pendulous pyramids inverted by gravity,
Hanging in the cool shade.
Here and there a touch of green, hard and dense,
Among the ripe bursting grains.
Almost, almost.
Almost does for the blackbirds,
Fluttering through the sun-crackling leaves
In their hysterical haste.
Crashing and clucking, they gobble,
Picking the ripest, sweetest,
Ransacking the harvest.
Cat watches,
Impotent in the face of such fury.
No matter.
I would rather blackbirds than grapes anyway.

Haiku for a summer morning

Early morning cats
watch the swifts’ mad flight—sunrise
in their golden eyes

©John Firth
©John Firth

Summer gardening
lush green of fig and grape vine
tendrils in my hair.


Swifts—summer sound
Shrieking through the balmy air
Joyous melody.

South Wind


Wind from the south
Gusting, scorching
Scratches the blue from the sky
With flails of sand
Whipped from the dunes
Of sun-dazzled deserts.
Carries the flavours
Of pines and perfumes
Piquant and pungent
Of exotic cuisine
And the babble of voices
In a foreign tongue.
A soft sea
Swells in its arms
Warm with the touch of the sun
Rocking with barques
Red and blue
And the brilliant billowing
White of their sails.
Hot wind
Unsettling amid
This northern green
Bending cool trees
Drying and cracking
The dark humid earth
Swirling its sandy skirts
And stirring the past
Deep hidden beneath the roses.
Summer wind
Gusts through the blossom
Red tears falling
On a heart ripped open wide.
Brash sunlight beams
On the windswept memories
Of that last summer
Before you went away.


Light fills, air glitters, hard.
Colour fades into tones of silver, painfully bright, leached into the light and absorbed.
Leaves, petals, stone, cracked earth gleam harsh and hot.
Air hums with insect, bird whisperings.
Stone cracks, sand crumbles. And in the stillness, a single leaf nods.
Smells of dry earth, far away cooking, brittle blooms bowed in the heat.

Dark green shadow contrasts knife sharp, cool and deep.
Light softens, flows around and touches green and pale pink blossom.
Dark earth gathers shadows; shadows fill the curve of a leaf, a petal.
In the shade colour washes, soft, easy.
Green is the colour of the memory of rain.
A cat stretches in the deep shade of the table.
Crickets throb.

The lull before the summer

Summer is in the air. Not so much in the temperature, as it is still quite brisk in the early morning, but as the sun rises, the air warms and the earth begins to smell of summer.

In town, summer smells are not always the most enticing. Pools of human dejections of one kind or another are part of the scenery, and not every citizen has learned what rubbish bins are for. But away from the streets, the smell of damp earth getting hot predominates, mown grass and the scent of spring flowers.

Viola odorata by Fritz Geller-Grimm
Viola odorata by Fritz Geller-Grimm

The sounds I associate with spring, the song of the robin and the wagtail, have given way to the screeching of the swifts that finally arrived last week.

Chimney swift overhead by Jim McCulloch
Chimney swift overhead by Jim McCulloch

Trixie caught her second lizard of the season—must have been a pretty geriatric specimen since she isn’t the most agile of felines—which we were able to rescue before she damaged it too much.

Common lizard on boardwalk by Babelstone
Common lizard on boardwalk by Babelstone

This season is too short for me. Plants flower and fade too early and the season of baking heat is too long. I intend to profit from these next weeks of green growth, because by June the garden will look like a jungle.

A taste of summer

Sometimes it takes very little to change mood, outlook, morale. Sometimes just a few degrees of temperature will do it. Today was not just warm as a summer’s day, there was a sense of release, as if at last there was no more fear of getting cold, getting wet, or having the umbrella destroyed in a gale.

I don’t know whether it goes back to an ancestral fear of the ‘dark’ season, when nothing grows, when animals die of cold and hunger, and babies and old people give up the struggle to keep alive that keeps us tense and irritable as long as the bad weather lasts. The spring, the change in the air, the birdsong is a sign that the winter is coming to an end, though the season is fickle, and hail and snow showers can bring down the early buds, and nobody risks going out without a coat.

But, all of a sudden, there is a stillness in the morning air, a warmth that grows until it is too hot to sit in the sun. Suddenly the breeze is warm and full of the scent of flowers. Then we let out a long sigh of relief. We throw caution to the winds, and the windows open to the soft breeze. We set the table outside, and sit long into the evening with a glass of wine or cup of coffee listening to the birds.
The streets, the parks and the promenades fill with people simply marvelling at the blue sky and the green that is covering the dry winter twigs. The scent of cut grass and wisteria fill the air, and the chore of watering the garden plants begins. A taste of summer.
Today was like that.PENTAX Digital Camera