Ouse Water Meadow, York

partial unlockdown June 4th 2020

I can see clover —
I know what that is —

and some little yellow flowers
I’ve looked up before.
A multitude of different grasses,
all very long, make a satisfying slap
against my calves.

A few golden cows, lazy, across
the other side of the low river.

Bare earth on the path is deep-cracked,
no rain for a month,
barely any since February torrents,
when all these meadows were underwater,
the clue, in their name — Water End.

It never rains but it pours,
feast or famine, plague.

Riverside terrace foundations shift and settle,
move with the water table;
it was ever thus,
more so before flood defences.
Jimmy Mack the joiner tells us,

when I was a lad, these houses flooded
every year — the houses of The Railway Poor.

And as for the flowers,
like viruses, we name, we classify, we quell.
My Dad could name them all,
but I never listened, more interested
in shops and streets and towns.

And would I like them more if I knew their names:
the ones we give them,

not the names they give themselves.

Marilyn Longstaff
This poem was first published in Dreich Xtra