Gathan Beaga

a poetry for summer

Walking to work, I could not fail to notice all the long grass on the verges: it was making me sneeze.

cocksfoot, timothy, and dogstail

In another place and time, I’d walk slowly along the hot and dusty road behind the ewes with my Dad. It would be weaning time and the old girls needed to go back up the hill, leaving their now grown (and tasty) lambs behind. They weren’t always keen to go, funnily enough.

- what’s this then?
Dad leans over, pulling up a stalk.
I think for a bit.
- ummm, dogstail?
- nope – it’s Timothy
- oh yeah, I get confused: is dogstail is smaller and more triangular?

yorkshire fog, ryegrass and browntop

cocksfootMy Dad grew up on a farm, as did I. When he was a kid though, trout lived in every small stream, ready for tickling, people aspired to “simple” things like owning an American car… and the best prank going was to saw most of the way through the rail beside the neighbour’s long drop.

tall fescue, sweet vernal and barleygrass

The names of the grasses seemed important. They were like some shared farming knowledge passed down from father to son (characteristically generous, my father insisted that all of the summer students from Lincoln College and Massey also learned The Knowledge of Grasses).

sorrel, sheep’s burnet and prairie grass

But later, and still now, I think they make a kind of summer poetry (Poa-try?). I wish I could remember them all. But it was a long time ago.

And I am no longer a farmer, though I will always remain the son of one.