Summer: Young September’s Corn Field
A sky of brilliant ultramarine
stands off without imprinting a shadow
on the blond sibilance of dusted corn.
Whichever way the wind moves there’s a flow –
a current set up in responsive ears.
today it’s calm. September, the earth’s crust
is parched, blood-spots of scarlet pimpernel
and red poppies are filmed with a thin dust,
the landscape is unpeopled, leave a field
and it defines its own contours, no edge
serves as a clear boundary, things overtake
their limits, bindweed stitches up a hedge…
Dead silence here. They’re listening for rain
in the farm out of the picture grouped round
a wooden table, a bluebottle drums
in a net curtain. It’s the only sound.
Stand in the foreground, shapes are menacing,
too huge, too close-up, look, the holly-green
corn-ears are feathery vertical spears.
They threaten as a colony that’s seen
only by the eye looking out across
the landscape, trees retreating up a hill,
and perhaps invisibly a farmhand
prostrate in the centre, so very still
he doesn’t move for the wasp on his face;
the dead bottles are skittled round his feet.
But something’s waiting. It’s the border state
of growth that’s untouched by the grizzled heat,
or machinery preparing to roll?
Tomorrow harvesters will work the field,
mangle the farmhand, equalize the corn.
The beetle runs beneath its cobalt shield.
Jeremy Reed was born in Jersey. He received an Eric Gregory Award in 1983 and in 1985 was joint winner of the Somerset Maugham Award. His Selected Poems was published by Penguin in 1986 and recent books of poetry include Nineties, Jonathan Cape 1990, and Red Haired Android, HarperCollins 1992.