Near Isel

Near Isel

The Derwent flows fast and straight here, a long trough of a river. On the slope to the farmtrack above is an almost square hayfield. Having started along this top hedge the tractor is mowing in squares, each almost-square smaller than the last. The mown field is pale and marked off with frames of dark mounded lines, each frame smaller than the last. The remaining uncut almost-square is a deeper mottled green. Swallows and sand martins are swooping to the midges that have been driven up, with gulls and crows flying in to feast on the bigger, mower-chewed beetles. A curlew’s nest has been exposed. The parent curlews, mewling, dive again and again in an attempt to drive the crows away from their (still alive?) chicks. The crows, intent on their meal, don’t even duck.

Before the tractor has completed another square
the curlews, seeing their chicks carried off, leave crying.



Sam Smith is editor of The Journal (once ‘of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry’) and publisher of Original Plus books.  At the moment living in Maryport, author of Marraton, he has several other novels and some poetry collections and to his name. (see website

  1. Frances

    Lovely, Sam. I’m thinking of Burns’s To a Field-Mouse (which I read last night to a Yacht Club crowd.) “… the best-laid plans of mice and men / gang aft agley”.


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