Barbara Cumbers is a retired information officer and part-time lecturer in geology. She has had poems published widely in magazines and anthologies. Her first collection, A gap in the rain, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016. She is currently working on a collection of poems about the Shetland Isles where she had a month’s residency in 2018.
Walking with Gilbert White
Of course one walk can’t be enough – it must
be many walks along the same route, slow
over seasons and years, and many times of day.
I love the leisure of it, the unhurried thoroughness,
the way he calls me to pause at a dunnock’s song
noting the date it rose high in the hawthorn
from skulking in undergrowth, how long
it sings there. He urges me to check
when the first swallow comes, how it might pass
unnoticed among pipits and larks, how low
or high it flies, and at what time. He asks
if it came before or after the martins
this year, or last. He is so perceptive
it shames me. I make my scanty notes.
He nods and smiles, points out gently
how much more there is – the seven types of bee
that pollinate the brambles, how cold and rain
hold back the willowherb, the variety of flies
that bother horses, their metallic sheen. Look,
he says in my garden, a few of the ladybirds
are black with two red spots. Make a note
how many — we’ll check for more next year.