The sparrows are gone and now the winter is lonely.
Their spaces are taken by the gravelled drives
and the paved gardens. There will be no reprieve
but as the little bird leaves, like the wise man
deserts a fool, know that everything has its time
and that ours, too, is almost run.
The horse chestnut’s elephantine trunk glows warm
in the low winter sun, its clawing bareness stretches
into a cleansing sky. A narrow shaft of yellow light
dispels the rime on the whitened sward,
and the hanging orange globes of the passion flower,
like tiny suns, remind us of long gone warmth,
a hint of the approach of solstice day.
The lone robin stands guard, like a redcoat
patrolling his shed roof, punching way above his weight
to see off the bigger birds, those who would dare
plunder his own private space. He has nothing
but disdain for the squabbling starlings
who strut around in their shiny suits
in vain shows of bluster and pretence.
Even the cowslips thought it was spring.
Over keen, they showed their yellow hats
when the weather was mild and now they’re
caught out in a sudden arctic blast.
So too, the evergreen rosemary, whose lilac flowers,
though welcome, reveal the underlying unease
at the heart of the garden.
So we grew to like mowing the lawn, put up
with cutting the hedge. We let the poppies grow wild
and the elderflower rampage. We even learned
to love nettles and the funny little weeds –
but the sparrow never came back. They say he lives
in tiny enclaves now, in the fringes with red squirrels,
quite unknown in these parts, where the blackbird
chinks a meagre winter song.
poem © copyright df barker 2012
*first published in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available on amazon.com