This far north, the harvest happens late.
Rooks go clattering over the sycamores
whose shadows yawn after them, down to the river.
Uncut wheat staggers under its own weight.
Summer is leaving too, exchanging its gold
for brass and copper. It is not so strange
to feel nostalgia for the present; already
this September evening is as old
as a photograph of itself. The light, the shadows
on the field, are sepia, as if this were
some other evening in September, some other
harvest that went ungathered years ago.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2011. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2011 was Roddy Lumsden.
This poem only made it into my selection when I revisited it, looking through my sheaf of possible inclusions. At first, I had felt it might be too slight, too simply descriptive. But, looking again, I found that it was more complex than I recalled, more surprising in its imagery: the bird’s yawning shadows, the staggering wheat. At the poem’s centre is a statement that happily ‘tells’ and this is surrounded by a wrap of actuality and then conceit, which makes for an effective short lyric.
Landscape is the ostensible subject-matter for a lot of my work, whether visual art or poetry. For some time I had been wanting to write about that end-of-summer-but-not-quite-autumn time of year. So when my weekly poetry class was given the task of writing something using the passive voice, without the use of the word ‘I’, the subject was to hand and this poem was ready to be written.