by Neil Philip
Each footstep in the claggy soil pulls the
booted foot half out of his hip socket.
The plough is so heavy it could pull you
over like a kick from a horse. He does
not notice these things, following the furrow
with a jaunty snatch of whistled song
up and down the slope of the open field.
A cuckoo calls, a clear bubble of sound
echoing from the ancient woods below.
He smiles. He’s heard the story many times
of the Idbury simpletons who tried
to trap the cuckoo, hoping by such means
to capture summer too. That marshy field
between two streams is still called Cuckoo Pen.
The tune he is whistling could be any one
of a dozen or so—Trunkles, Morning Star,
Lumps of Plum Pudding, Balance the Straw,
bawdy Cuckoo’s Nest or Idbury Hill.
Sometimes in bed he kicks his wife, dreaming
that he is dancing, and his nimble feet
are free of the pull and tug of earth.