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A Cranefly in September -- Ted Hughes

Guest poem submitted by David McKelvie:
(Poem #1306) A Cranefly in September
 She is struggling through grass-mesh - not flying,
 Her wide-winged, stiff, weightless basket-work of limbs
 Rocking, like an antique wain, a top-heavy ceremonial cart
 Across mountain summits
 (Not planing over water, dipping her tail)
 But blundering with long strides, long reachings, reelings
 And ginger-glistening wings
 From collision to collision.
 Aimless in no particular direction,
 Just exerting her last to escape out of the overwhelming
 Of whatever it is, legs, grass,
 The garden, the county, the country, the world -

 Sometimes she rests long minutes in the grass forest
 Like a fairytale hero, only a marvel can help her.
 She cannot fathom the mystery of this forest
 In which, for instance, this giant watches -
 The giant who knows she cannot be helped in any way.

 Her jointed bamboo fuselage,
 Her lobster shoulders, and her face
 Like a pinhead dragon, with its tender moustache,
 And the simple colourless church windows of her wings
 Will come to an end, in mid-search, quite soon.
 Everything about her, every perfected vestment
 Is already superfluous.
 The monstrous excess of her legs and curly feet
 Are a problem beyond her.
 The calculus of glucose and chitin inadequate
 To plot her through the infinities of the stems.

 The frayed apple leaves, the grunting raven, the defunct tractor
 Sunk in nettles, wait with their multiplications
 Like other galaxies.
 The sky's Northward September procession, the vast
 soft armistice,
 Like an Empire on the move,
 Abandons her, tinily embattled
 With her cumbering limbs and cumbered brain.
-- Ted Hughes
This is from "Season Songs", one of Hughes' books for children. It's
hardly the best poem he wrote, but I really like it. The first time I
read it, I was leafing through a copy of it in a library in Australia. I
had been travelling there for some time and had met so many other
backpackers like me. But when sitting in the library reading it, one
line jumped out at me: "aimless in no particular direction". I
automatically knew that that line describes all backpackers despite
their reasons and regardless of how well they've planned their
itinerary. But I never told anyone, they'd have objected. Backpackers
can be very touchy. :)

In Hughes' poem, the cranefly is a wanderer for no reason. She blunders
"with long strides". The whole poem seems to me a description of my life
as a backpacker in Australia and my need to move on, and this need to
"escape out of the overwhelming / Of whatever it is, legs, grass, / The
garden, the county, the country, the world". All backpackers have their
reason to escape their comfortable Westernised world. Some travel to see
something new, some for 'spiritual' reasons, some because their friends
are doing it, some for life experiences, others to escape a difficult
situation at home. Whatever...

The poem also reminded me a friend I travelled with for a while. She
*was* running from the world, her whole life *was* aimless not just her
feet.  The last five lines sum up her situation perfectly.

David.

[Minstrels Links]

Poems by Ted Hughes:
Poem #42, Hawk Roosting
Poem #98, The Thought Fox
Poem #417, Thistles
Poem #671, Lineage
Poem #723, Full Moon and Little Frieda
Poem #768, Theology
Poem #882, Wind

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