The path grinds itself into the feet. A grayling skitters
from under the boot toe, and settles a stone’s kick ahead.

A few wings of summer left: a chalkhill blue,
like a stemless harebell, flailing around the ankles,

a holly blue dulled to lavender, a small blue dusted with brown,
a silver-studded blue vanishing into the sky.

Sun zings off the scrapheap. A cranesbill has taken root,
and a grizzled skipper buzzes at it to salvage the usable.

The slow handkerchief of a large white waves in the railway siding
where the rosebay willowherb is spinning its floss.

The days won’t keep still. At the entrance to the field,
where brambles smother the stile, a gatekeeper fidgets.

A comma is suspended in the woodland margin.
A white-letter hairstreak is one scribble among many.

In the clearing the Duke of Burgundy flies its orange blazon.
The Queen of Spain fritillary is dancing in the shadows,

while the purple emperor parades under the canopy
before alighting on a collation of pony dung.

And, where the buddleia toasts itself by the garden fence,
a peacock comes, wearing its plumage of eyes,

and a red admiral shuffles on a finger of purple,
each antenna tipped with a pinhead of gleam.

Matthew Francis

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.