They've made it again,/Which means the globe's still working, the Creation's/Still waking refreshed, our summer's/Still all to come - Swifts by TED HUGHES.
I just happened to be looking out of the window this morning when I saw a buzzard soaring high over the house, the sunshine clearly picking out its brown and white markings. You'd never have seen buzzards here 10 - 15 years ago. Since the banning of many types of pesticide in the UK, the increase in raptor numbers has been a great success story.
And then I saw the swifts, shooting through the blue air on dark, scimitar-like wings. Yes, the swifts are back - for me, the true heralds of summer. I watch for them every year, and my heart leaps unfailingly each time I witness their arrival.
Anne Stevenson, in her poem Swifts, calls them earth-skimmers, sky-scythers, air pilgrims, high crosses cruising in ether, and sleepers over oceans in the will of the world's breathing.
This is the 1st verse of Anne Stevenson's poem:
Spring comes little, a little. All April it rains.
The new leaves stick in their fists; new ferns still fiddleheads.
But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child
You shout, 'The swifts are back!'
(I once briefly met Anne in the Poetry Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye - that mecca for bibliophiles and oenophiles where almost every building is a bookshop or a pub - in the early 1980s, I think it was. I'm pretty sure she co-owned the business at the time. I used to sell books myself back then, and managed to flog her some Dylan Thomas titles as stock for her already overburdened shelves. Her poetry is well worth checking out - and this would be a good place to start.)
I've touched on swifts before, in a piece that also reflected on my favourite months of the year and which described in a not-too-sombre way a friend's funeral I went to. You can read it here.