Ballad Of Nigel No Mates by Jerome Betts

Ballad Of Nigel No Mates

“New Zealand conservationists mourn loss of
celebrated bird that was lured by replica gannets
in the hope of establishing a breeding colony.”
— Guardian

Mana Island’s last rats had been banished
And now it was time to restore
The gannets who’d long ago vanished
From the cliffs overlooking the shore.

Concrete replicas fostered illusion,
(And solar-powered sound effects too)
But they led to a different conclusion
From the one it was hoped would ensue.

A wandering male made a landing
On the fake-dotted rocks of the isle
And the subsequent misunderstanding
Saw him named, and the world crack a smile.

For some years Nigel fruitlessly courted,
The hard-hearted hen he found there
Though the paint-job his paramour sported
Reminds us of you-know-who’s hair.

He stuck to the one he’d elected;
No others could quite break her spell −
Not just those human hands had erected
But three real arrivals as well.

Then he died, but his life was not wasted,
His tryst had ensured others came
And if Mana’s once more guano-pasted
He’ll deserve, as the founder, his fame,

Still, the scale of the sadness is planetary
That he’ll not see some chicks fledge for roles
In a throng flying far from his gannetry
To plunge-fish the New Zealand shoals.

by Jerome Betts

Editor’s Note: The juxtaposition of a rollicking meter and rhyme with the inherent doom of a resident species complicates this poem (but that is what ballads do).

From the archives – On The Turn by Jerome Betts

3icy

On The Turn

Loaded, a sunflower’s head inclines,
Petals like tarnished epaulettes.
Teasels become all curved brown spines;
The beechmast crumples on the setts.
Now leaves display first yellow stains,
The cider-apple crop thumps down
And heaped-up trailers block the lanes
With loads to crush and press in town.

A tractor’s cab shakes drops of dew
From brambles’ blackening red beads;
Flurries of gulls and rooks pursue
The ploughshare slicing under weeds;
Wild strawberries bloom, defying ice,
Death-blow the season still delays,
Though indoors now the feet of mice
Patter the tale of shortening days.

 

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, November 9, 2015 — by Jerome Betts

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Scribbled In A Country Saleroom by Jerome Betts

Scribbled In A Country Saleroom

The hammer seals the fate of Sundry pots;
Encrusted grime receives a last quick wipe
As bidding opens on the better lots –
One decorative pink-tinted Nailsea pipe.

Next up, an item that provokes mild mirth,
A large Victorian tub-shaped lady’s chair.
(Designed to fit around the ample girth
Of Number 19’s bulbous jardiniére?)

Here lives are measured out with melon scoops,
Or Spode tureens and seats in figured plush,
With Thirties memorabilia, Betty Boops,
Parisian prints that once made buyers blush.

A salver, (pie-crust edges) . . . Did it bear,
Clasped tightly in a servant’s nervous hand,
Some telegram with tidings of despair,
Financial ruin, loss of house and land?

And will these very pages, now so new,
Their present readers passed on, burnt or boxed,
One day know fresh appraising eyes that view
Marked catalogue, historic, badly foxed?

by Jerome Betts

Editor’s Note: I must confess to a fondness for iambic pentameter, and this poem does not disappoint. The easy roll of the meter supports the whimsical voice of the narrative, giving the last line a satisfying punch.

Something In The Air by Jerome Betts

Something In The Air

How soon it seems the window pales
And curlews bubble round the field.
Fresh out, the cattle lift their tails,
Kick, run and bellow, all spring-heeled;
House-sparrows, building in the eaves,
Trail dead grass left from winter floods;
A bass-broom hedgerow-top receives
Its bristle-softening of buds.

First bulbs poke up their smooth green gapes;
Palm willows thrum with early bees;
By rooks’ wind-ruffled swaying shapes
Half-moons of twigs blotch leafless trees;
The ditches harbour glistening spawn;
Gold lichen spangles roof and rails.
Each day the light returns at dawn
How soon it seems the window pales.

by Jerome Betts

Editor’s Note: Iambic tetrameter displays the change of season from cold to warm in this poem (and is a fitting mirror to On The Turn). The repetition of the first line at the close of the poem neatly reminds the reader of the season’s ephemeral nature.

On The Turn by Jerome Betts

On The Turn

Loaded, a sunflower’s head inclines,
Petals like tarnished epaulettes.
Teasels become all curved brown spines;
The beechmast crumples on the setts.
Now leaves display first yellow stains,
The cider-apple crop thumps down
And heaped-up trailers block the lanes
With loads to crush and press in town.

A tractor’s cab shakes drops of dew
From brambles’ blackening red beads;
Flurries of gulls and rooks pursue
The ploughshare slicing under weeds;
Wild strawberries bloom, defying ice,
Death-blow the season still delays,
Though indoors now the feet of mice
Patter the tale of shortening days.

by Jerome Betts

Editor’s Note: Iambic tetrameter displays the change of season from warmth to cold in this poem. Just when one expects another metered foot the line ends—how like our expectation for another warm day stymied by frost on the edges of the world.