Sunday 24 May 2020

in praise of the house martin


The may’s in blossom and at last the summer’s starting;
we watch for the first swallow to confirm to us it’s made,
but fail entirely to remark the sober, modest martin.

The screaming swifts put all their soul and heart in
to devil-take-the-hindmost zooming high-speed escapades
that graze the blossoms of the the summer’s starting;

while fluttering swallows twitter over linhays, byres and bartons,
their long forked tails that trail behind so gracefully displayed;
a panache absent from our dumpy chum the martin,

whose burbling call sounds vaguely like some woodland creature farting,
or a creaky hinge that cries for WD40 to be sprayed
while swinging wildly open to let in the summer’s starting.

They gather on the river bank, collecting mud and carting
it up to the eaves of houses where their nests are all arrayed,
like little muddy beehives, bustling colonies of martins

And it’s cheerful as all heck until the time comes for departing,
and the eaves return to silence where the absent broods were laid.
Frost blossoms on the windows and we yearn for summer’s starting,
returning us the swallow; and, of course, the humble martin.

A friend was asking after poems about swallows, swifts and martins, and remarked that there weren't that many about martins. 

So I said I'd write one.

By the way, the picture of Crofton that illustrates this is now available in my Etsy shop, as is this one about canal cuisine...


  1. Oh Dru, you actually brought a tear to my eye with the last verse.

    1. It gets me too, tbh, especially just now when they’re all getting ready to set off and there’s an end-of-summer feeling happening