New poem for late summer

Straw to Gold


Skedaddle! Out with you, Brothers Grimm—

You and your scheming scimitars,

Your poisonous pouch of nightmares,

Your wicked sickle blades—get out, grim reapers!

Don’t peddle any grimy story near us here:

Of a nameless miller’s daughter dusty with corn husks,

Hair bleached fair as finest barley flour

Repeating her father’s shameless lie

To greedy royal ears that she could turn

The common straw to golden thread

When not one stalk could she so spin.

Go! Wind your broken spools of goblin yarn & take them off

Down stifling alleyways to other village inns

Where gullible fools believe such tales.


The boot’s now on the other foot, you know. It’s not

Poor womenfolk who spin the straw to gold these days:

Not mincing, soft-shoed cobblers’ lasses;

Not singed & sparky blacksmiths’ girls;

Not doe-eyed, millers’ daughters;

Today the hayfields’ wealth is spun to gold

By sinewy, sunburned men with furrowed brows

And crinkled eyes below a denim baseball cap,

Who sit aloft in spacious air-con harvesters

That thresh unbroken narratives

Down satellite-mapped alleyways of grass

And then spill out, spin out

The half-ton reels of gleaming bales:

Fine gold from summer’s yellow fields.


No Rumpelstiltskins spoil the party now:

Only a surly storm or two, glowering, scowling over downland cliffs & folds.

And—in between the hedges and the cottages—

Great curving, curling rolls of gold.

© Lizzie Ballagher

The photo below appears with grateful thanks to Lee Abbey, North Devon, just on the edge of Exmoor National Park. It is one of the most lovely places in Britain.

Lee Abbey fields

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