Occasionally, I write a poem about something other than cricket. This is one such. It was written, as the title suggests, one late summer day in 2014. I had gone into the garden, as I often do on a summer evening, to watch the swifts, only to find there were none to be seen. They had left, as suddenly as they had come three and a half months before, on their migration south at the end of the mating season. I saw my first swifts of 2020 in May and they took me back to this poem written in the pre-coronavirus world.
It is August and the swifts have gone.
The sky suddenly empty of their limitless, racing flight.
Although the gulls, starlings and others labour on
None matches the swift for sleight of flight or height.
With the gods of the air they live in covenant,
For perfect shallow curves, at speed, they fly
Until, in an instant, with furious flap of wings
They turn a right angle that defies the logic of the eye.
They came early this year, scarce halfway through April
And adorned our skies through the high summer days.
They lifted the heart as they touched wings with the angels
And lit up the sky with their joyous displays.
I stand in awe as I watch my swifts
As they arc, dive and soar.
Here for their brief summer trysts
Before streaking back to the heart of Africa once more.
Across France, Spain and sun-seared Sahara
My swifts eat, drink and sleep while they fly.
As they describe an endless parabola
To girdle a quarter of the globe in the blink of an eye.
As I endure the frost and snows of winter
They adorn the skies of more tropical climes.
Their sleek lines a wonder of nature
Freeing them endlessly from Earth’s melancholy confines.
And all the while I await April’s refrain.
And so do my swifts on high
That they may resume their glorious reign
As lords of my summer sky.