Straw-Burning

Blake Morrison

Was it thrup or thrip,
your word for the thunderflies
that came off the cornfield
with the paddlesteaming combine,
like wafted ashes

sticking to our bodies
and warning us of this:
the yellowing page
set alight at one corner,
the burning of straw.

We can see the flames
rushing towards us
like a lynch-mob,
blood in their eye,
tarring and furring,

until the churn and swirl
of the ploughed field-edge
brings them up short
as a river would
yards from our door.

But deaths come bittily
on the evening wind,
mouse bones and finch skulls,
burnt moths and butterflies,
a wedding from hell.

We take them to bed with us:
our charred dreams
are of a leak at Sizewell
or a Green Giant
razing villages and crops.

And this morning they’re inside,
these wisps of corn-soot,
making themselves at home,
feathering every windowsill,
shaken out of rugs

like rooks from a rookery
or depositing their tea-leaves
in our mugs.
And the mile-long fires
hanging their sheets

across the bypass
are our summer’s cremation,
the last of August
like a loose-leaf diary
scattered round the globe.