I heard you in wheatfields
when summers were real.
In the blue of night you rasped your call
unstilling the velvet heat.
We would nest in meadows of long grass
yellow irises or forget-me-nots bursting with pollen
lush with insects.
I knew your sound and thought it friendly,
warm as the sun on a haycock
or newly laid eggs in the chicken coop.
We had peace in scything season,
the farmer’s tread across the field
gave time to run for cover with our crakelings.
Long sunny days of playtime, stretching the game
until sunbeams faded on the wall of the shed
and crows were settling, you hid from me.
When they mowed hayfields with horses
the clatter of harness, glint of metal
was warning enough.
Wanting a glimpse of your speckled head
I looked for you in meadows,
played your ‘crex-crex’ game of hide-and-go-seek.
No, you never could find us
our nest snug in a jungle of loosestrife,
grassy smells, where we used to feel safe.
I loved the haysweetness of air
when mowing machines cut golden swathes
and larks swooped the white heat of sky.
Those tractors really did us in
spinning around the field, unmerciful,
smashing our nests, slicing our fledglings.
And then you were gone, on chestnut wings
again, to Africa’s ochre plains,
your cup of a nest crushed among stubble.
Diminished each year, we fly South
returning in Spring like our forebears
bound to life’s eternal circle.