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Vallée de l’Orb

crowfoot blossomsThe hushing of leaves 

in tune with the river’s rush, 

while crickets sound alarm clocks 

that nobody heeds, 

as all the world’s awake, 

chirruping, squabbling 

unseen from treetops.

The spaniel gallops on

to dive-bomb her reflection,

but we follow gingerly

on two legs apiece, 

picking our way unshod 

down a dusty track 

of pebbles and brush.

On land we are various 

veterans and teens, 

and all stations in between, 

dark, fair, mousey,

strapping or thin,

Parisians, Londoners, 

coastal and country folk,

Straining to understand,

with frowns and smiles 

and schoolgirl linguistics,

picking our way gingerly 

through conversation, 

busy hands grasping 

at long-lost nouns.

But anyone knows

the language of cool water 

in shared sunlight, 

the tremble of goosebumps,

the shocks of glee,

of fright and wonder,

echoing up an empty ravine.

Some plunge in with the dog, 

while others totter in the shallows,

gripping greasy rocks

with soles and fingers,

leaning to the current,

stretching for a firm hold,

like infants for a favourite toy.

By ones and twos we reach a cove 

where crowfoot blossoms

trail green tendrils in the flow,

and minnows flash

their silver trinket bodies,

hovering against the drift, 

dangled from some great ornament.

Blue bejewelled dragonflies,

and silken butterflies 

of yolk and butter yellows 

potter in their floating gardens, 

where we lounge and gaze, 

a dozen timeless children,

flowers draggled in our hair.

The longest day of summer

stands still for us

and waits.


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