Suffolk 037In the battle between nature and art, art always wins

and nature always has the upper hand.

Are we in a painting or not?  Bystanders and passers-by

mill around, holding forth copies of The Haywain,

moving with the fierce sloth of Giotto’s angels,

photographing themselves in front of Flatford Mill.


The sun dutifully sparkles on the lily pads

as we recognise ourselves in the painting,

newly transformed into art lovers:

here is the scene we step into or progress through

in wheelchairs with sandwiches and cameras,

even a velvet dog or two.  Home at last ─


to Willy Lott’s House, with the wisteria at our backs,

wistful in a balmy way for more rugged times

when splinters from the barges were cursed and forgotten,

pond waters stagnated less from a working mill

and bark and canopy still waved above

the wool-backed flocks of mellow silver.


Now tea is served at the National Trust’s

Bridge Cottage, bedded in borage and comfrey.

One can stoop inside a dark shed, glossed for visitors

and, as befits a shrine, with memories glassed.

These are forgotten in the sunlight at picnic tables

when couples plan their way back to the M25.


Five abreast, each fretting with his or her ice cream,

families are agencies of banality. It was always thus ─

even when the mud clung to frocks and boots

and the fires roared in vain through summer damps,

when wealth was visible and mattered more

and yahoo meant something else entirely.