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by Isabella Mead

There is a village coiled in the Chilterns,
all catflaps and thatch, black beams and whitewash,
cradled in hills and cosseted by trees

where bellringers reel out handstroke and backstroke
the way the red kites loop the sky
while we walk the dog or jog round the park.

But stay awhile and it’s not so simple.
There’s the way the curtains flap at French windows
when a little breeze gets up in summer

and shakes out the secrets of pampas grass,
the careless puffy fronds that signal
unconventional haunts for unofficial couples

and there’s the man out fishing, found face down
when the lake overflowed last Midsummer’s Day.
Otherwise, there’s church bazaars and tea.

Then winter arrives and uncushions the trees
with the falling of leaves, the sky filling in
the spaces between. Summer secrets

are spilled in weakness, then the changing of locks,
a saucepan thrown in a kitchen. Now Christmas
and we think of Africa or the Middle East:

send shoes and supplies, drink fair trade tea,
shake tins, knit scarves. And we stare at the sky,
far enough from London for the stars.