Monday, August 17, 2009

I don't much care for August...

I don't much care for August.

The sticky, stuffy heat, the hot tired road on pads and soles.
But then I find myself amused by how the tarmac blisters,
glints balefully like eyes, gives underfoot and licks your shoes,

as if the road becomes alive and starts to move,
has appetites and aspirations of its own, and briefly keeps
your footprint as a keepsake of your passing through.

But still I'd say, I don't much care for August.

The lack of lushness, the nastiness of ragweed. Though,
I love the bee-charged mound of marjoram, and how
the knapweed throws a purple beaded net along the verges,

and those bright harvest flowers - hawksbeards? - something in between
a thistle and a dandelion, whose yellow is of so intense a saturation that you want
to thank them for it. Even the meaty purple architecture of the hogweed's rather fine...

But still I'd say, I don't much care for August.

For the insects, the grubby flies and all the things that buzz and bite
and sting and tickle, how nothing seems to veil an open door
or window when you need it most. Although, of course,
I love the butterflies, which animate the weary garden,
burning up the flowers and themselves in their miraculous economy.
And the black writhings of the caterpillars on the nettle leaves, I like that too.

But still I'd say, I don't much care for August.

How the land seems altogether overloaded, overwhelmed
with cropping and with forced fertility. Mind you, the baked brown
wholesomeness of wheat, plush and fat in the fields still,

the plumes of barley cut to vivid stubble, ridges and rolls
of straw that need no Rumpelstiltskin to turn them into gold,
are good, all good. Yes, good like buttered toast.

But still I'd say, I don't care much for August.

I don't approve of maize, resent its bullying invasion, how
it overbears and tunnels us, its starchy, sucking ruin of the soil.

And yet, the spread hands of its flowers, their longest digits pointing,
eagerly, up to the sky, saying "There! Look, there,
that's where we're going!" as it dandles its new baby cobs,
their green blond top knots turning purple auburn, endear it to me, even so.

But still I'd say, I don't care much for August, nor for maize.

Nor for the way the birds in moult can scarcely sing, and dawn
without them's sad and sullen. Until, the other day, the robin, who,
threadbare and starey, has frowsted for weeks around the garden paths,
perched on the fence showing off his sleek new orange outfit, then
launched himself upward, catching his song's ripple in mid-air.
And then too, there are the young ones learning how to live...

But still I'd say, I don't care much for August.

For, in August's foxed and speckled accidie, its outstayed welcome,
its spent- and staleness, its bleached-out colour, shortened days, I see
perhaps the year in weedy, seedy middle-age, the dullness of a wasted afternoon,
reproaching me. And yet, mid-life is not so bad, and lazy afternoons are not a sin,
(- though more and more I fear that wishing any time away might well be... )
But roll on fresh September and the happy hour!

For really, I would say, I don't care much for August.


marja-leena said...

This is a fantastic poetic and photographic riff on the month that is middle age, Lucy! I have mixed feelings too, especially if it's hot and muggy. Yet I'm sad to see the lengthening shadows. Yet I love the fall, yet....
It's really about time marching on much too fast even on those lazy slow kinda days when we accomplish nothing.

jzr said...

Wonderful words and images. I'm with you on not caring much for August, except that it ushers in my most favorite season of all, the fall!!

herhimnbryn said...

Stunning words and images both.

The Crow said...

Cabbage white gossips with the honey bee about the dog days and autumn on the rise.

I loved this post, Lucy...pure joy in the photos and in reading your lilting words.


Granny J said...

Such a wonderful commentary! The middle ages of the year indeed.

Roderick Robinson said...

Clever stuff, Lucy. Ensuring narrative tension by a ping-pong, negative-positive effect which even poetic dullards like me can recognise and are then - ineluctably (favourite word) - drawn in. Alas, the narrowness of the screen breaks the lines not necessarily at points of your choosing; I would like to see the whole thing written in calligraphed style with long lines getting all the space they deserve. Not that I'm complaining - it is a fine display of virtuoso picture painting with the season/age mataphor artfully woven in; however, I wouldn't have walked on the hot tar for a bottle of Vosne-Romanée 2005.

As a show-off with little educational back-up I prefer accidie but I'll bet you have a sterling reason for using your version.

I didn't like August either. It's my birthday month and at primary school I was always on holiday and therefore denied bringing in a cake.

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a lovely piece, evoking the month so perfectly...

Dick said...

I don't disagree with your commentary on August, Lucy - and I love the poetic to-ing and fro-ing of the disputation - but we're experiencing something of an Indian summer and I'll settle for all the imperfections of the month for a bit of late light and heat!

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

Line lengths - yes, it's annoying, and one reason why thei blogger format isn't very well suited to poems with longer lines. I have been known to shrink the font, and tried it here, but they still broke up in a few places, and it looked weird anyway.

Accidie - many thanks, 'tis corrected! I wondered about 'accedia'... Doing seasonal stuff like this means things don't get as much editing and redrafting as perhaps they should, but I have to say I'd have missed that one anyway. Hang my head...

vicki johnson said...

well done!
and i'm sure you know i agree...totally

StimmeDesHerzens said...

Its only been the last month or so, that I occasionally see what you have posted. And am continually obliged to feast on your photos (love the spider web photo in last entry); have you described what your camera is yet?
Some of the insects are yucky, but some delightful, but all photos bring forth a reaction, of delight and amazement!

christopher said...

What beautiful work, Lucy. Thanks.

The Joined up Cook said...

I never used to care for August much.

But now I am in the September of my life I have fond memories of it.

It is that time when we are spoilt for choice; when we have grown used to being sated with the easy, balmy life of high summer, of our own high summer.

A time of year when we look back, sometimes, on the freshness of Spring with a little nostalgia.

Not realising that when we have passed through this time of plenty, this time of being sated, that it has a languid, lazy and complacent beauty all of its own.

Jen said...

Oh Lucy! I think I might rather love you after that. Slightly John Betjeman somehow... quite delicious.

Sheila said...

Wonderful, wonderful! It is such joy to see the world through your eyes! (You should come to Memphis if you *really* want to not care for August.....)

Rosie said...

That baby cob is rather cheeky in your photograph. I was rather shocked to see what looked like a field full of Porridges, but which must surely be cows. August feels a little bloated and ponderous to me this year, but perhaps that what I look like to August

apprentice said...

I'm with you on not liking August much, it is like the uncomfortable hour after a big meal.

This is a lovely photo essay Lucy.

The swallows are gathering for the off here, it always make me sad.

Rouchswalwe said...

Is it swallow leavetaking time already?
Lucy, your line about needing no Rumpelstiltskin has been with me for days.

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

Our swallows seem to be trying to cram in another brood before they go, they've put together another nest in the garage, pretty makeshift, and are in and out of there again... swifts have gone without saying goodbye though, as always.

Rumpelstiltskin, horrid little mannikin! Do you know what his name really means?!

Rouchswalwe said...

I like your description (horrid little mannikin) for this devilish boggart. In German, he's a kind of Klopfgeist, a vile, noise-making spirit. I think it's on my mind because there is such an individual in my workplace and it has been a particularly stressful week. Is there another meaning for the name?

Bee said...

Such a beautiful post, Lucy. I love the poetic form of this musing on August, and I agree with the content, too!

These words, especially, seem to capture the essence of it:

its spent- and staleness, its bleached-out colour, shortened days, I see
perhaps the year in weedy, seedy middle-age, the dullness of a wasted afternoon

We just got back from the Lake District, which was green, mossy and wet -- and somehow all wrong. Funnily enough, as we drove through Gloucestershire and saw the shorn, golden expanses and a hazy blue sky, it just seemed to look right. Yes, I know we shouldn't wish the days away, but I look forward to the burnishing of September (and the return to routine and more writing time).

I guess that we should be thankful that we aren't in Texas, though. They are on course for the HOTTEST SUMMER EVER and day after day of 100+ degrees just sucks the juice out of the landscape and those living in it. That relentless heat, combined with the depression of "going back to school," has always tainted August for me.

Pam said...

Yes yes yes I loved that too. Though in Scotland, August is kind of full summer still, with some things blossoming for the first time. And hot isn't too much of a problem.

I don't like August because I'm a teacher and it's back to work time. On the other hand, once I'm retired I'll love it. I hope.

But I'm not in the August of my years, alas. More like the October. Brrr.

Lucy said...

And again.

Smoke Swallow - yes - it means 'crumpled foreskin'! Sorry about your unpleasant colleague but perhaps it will give you a sneaky little cheer-up to think of him in this light...

Bee - I do like the freedom of being on holiday, but it always seems as though school holidays were just the dreg end of the year, especially in the UK when really they are only August. And we do seem to have a lot of maintenance type stuff to doround here at this time of year. September's Tom's birthday month, though, and we usually go away, so I love that!

Isabelle - but October is a lovely month!

Meggie said...

you really put my August gripes to shame. How lovely your words are.
Complimented by your wonderful photography.

Lucas said...

A journey into the landscape of August, parched and bleached with Summer's long days turned to white horizons. You've caught the blues with your long lines and refrain with photos to dream about too.
It makes me want to go for a long walk into those fields into those horizons of chalk and dust.