This morning after the rain had tea broke
I saw an old lady drying the grass with a towel
not wishing to embarrass her
I watched this tender action from a distance
the birds who had previously been sheltering
under leaking leaves
shook their feathers and peered out,
casting inquisitive looks to each other
‘Who is this strange disciple of nature?’
they thought
‘with her back bent and her knees damp’
The old lady continued to caress each blade
as if it were a long ago lover she had left
in the attic
The birds who were by now overjoyed
began to sing
but it wasn’t a song I had heard before
not a song for insensitive lovers on their way
home
from an all night party
or small children with bald fathers
in parks on summer mornings
but a song of beauty
and by now people had gathered
around the old lady
they lifted their ears above their heads
and were amazed by the beauty of the song
And soon reporters arrived
with headlines and ballpoints that leaked dishonesty
all wanting to know where this beautiful song had
come from
‘It must be the birds’ said a young executive
And then, as everyone waved their check books and
promised incorrect truths
the birds stopped singing
and turned their backs on the huge crowd
leaving the advertisers, the sightseers, the ice
cream man
with a vision of failed exploitation
So they drifted, drifted, drifted away
without ever noticing the old lady
drying the grass with a towel.

From Assembled in Britain, by Stewart Henderson, ?1986 Marshall Morgan and Scott, Basingstoke, Hants, United Kingdom, pp. 65, 66.