John Barleycorn and me

Beyond the tall reeds with chirruping warblers, are flat acreages.Maize First the maize, bright green, waist high now but with ambition, drawing growth from deep below a split, baked surface.  All this lush, vibrant life seems against the possible, it not having rained for weeks. Across the track, bordered by tissue-thin poppies – more acres. These are potatoes, with dark leaves, just beginning to bud pink flowers, and busy storing hidden energy in their cool tuber clusters.

Poppy-dogWalking, the dog bounding, his ears flying, my footfalls are hollow on the cracked earth. Above, wheeling and soaring, dipping in arcing swoops – swallows – their cry is summer’s song.

Then the barley, an ocean of blonde paintbrush tops that bristle and bend with one accord. The grains are fat. I squeeze one between my teeth. It gives a sweet milk, and the air is drowsy with the scent of its coming harvest. Then there will be roaring monsters, great clouds of dust and disturbed grasshoppers. There will be threshed tons, pouring like thick liquid, ready for the tall silos and the barges to carry it far away for beer, for malt, for broth. BarleyThere will be an aftermath of bruised straw fallen in regimental rows, its sap filling the mind like an ale-fueled muzz. But for the moment there is the ripening stillness – a blue sky, a thin line of purple horizon broken by a few rooftops, a few trees, and there is an emotion rising, an evaporation, making me spread my arms and spin until dizzy.

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