Work And Play

The swallow of summer, she toils all the summer,
A blue-dark knot of glittering voltage,
A whiplash swimmer, a fish of the air.
          But the serpent of cars that crawls through the dust
          In shimmering exhaust
          Searching to slake
          Its fever in ocean
          Will play and be idle or else it will bust.

The swallow of summer, the barbed harpoon,
She flings from the furnace, a rainbow of purples,
Dips her glow in the pond and is perfect.
          But the serpent of cars that collapsed on the beach
          Disgorges its organs
          A scamper of colours
          Which roll like tomatoes
          Nude as tomatoes
          With sand in their creases
          To cringe in the sparkle of rollers and screech.

The swallow of summer, the seamstress of summer,
She scissors the blue into shapes and she sews it,
She draws a long thread and she knots it at the corners.
          But the holiday people
          Are laid out like wounded
          Flat as in ovens
          Roasting and basting
          With faces of torment as space burns them blue
          Their heads are transistors
          Their teeth grit on sand grains
          Their lost kids are squalling
          While man-eating flies
          Jab electric shock needles but what can they do?

They can climb in their cars with raw bodies, raw faces
          And start up the serpent
          And headache it homeward
          A car full of squabbles
          And sobbing and stickiness
          With sand in their crannies
          Inhaling petroleum
          That pours from the foxgloves
          While the evening swallow
The swallow of summer, cartwheeling through crimson,
Touches the honey-slow river and turning
Returns to the hand stretched from under the eaves -
A boomerang of rejoicing shadow.

by Ted Hughes

Comments (1)

I absolutely love this poem! I want to be able to think and write like this... Sue.