Ted Hughes – Work and Play

The swallow of summer, she toils all the summer,
A blue-dark knot of glittering voltage,
A whiplash swimmer, a fish of the air.
But the serpent of cars that crawls through the dust
In shimmering exhaust
Searching to slake
Its fever in ocean
Will play and be idle or else it will bust.

The swallow of summer, the barbed harpoon,
She flings from the furnace, a rainbow of purples,
Dips her glow in the pond and is perfect.
But the serpent of cars that collapsed on the beach
Disgorges its organs
A scamper of colours
Which roll like tomatoes
Nude as tomatoes
With sand in their creases
To cringe in the sparkle of rollers and screech.

The swallow of summer, the seamstress of summer,
She scissors the blue into shapes and she sews it,
She draws a long thread and she knots it at the corners.
But the holiday people
Are laid out like wounded
Flat as in ovens
Roasting and basting
With faces of torment as space burns them blue
Their heads are transistors
Their teeth grit on sand grains
Their lost kids are squalling
While man-eating flies
Jab electric shock needles but what can they do?

They can climb in their cars with raw bodies, raw faces
And start up the serpent
And headache it homeward
A car full of squabbles
And sobbing and stickiness
With sand in their crannies
Inhaling petroleum
That pours from the foxgloves
While the evening swallow
The swallow of summer, cartwheeling through crimson,
Touches the honey-slow river and turning
Returns to the hand stretched from under the eaves –
A boomerang of rejoicing shadow.

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Can parks cure social ills?

I think that this question could really only be answered in any meaningful way by conducting a scientific study – there may have been one or more done already but without having been presented with its findings, my answer could only be conjecture. I am inclined to agree, however, with Olmsted’s view that parks would probably be conducive to a positive attitude in a city’s populace. My own experience of cities is that they have such an effect. I feel very misanthropic (as if people are constantly and deliberately getting in MY way) on bustling streets, such as Oxford Street, or squares edged with buildings with high facades that shrink the sky – but when the paving turns to lawn, 30mph signs to trees, when the horizon descends nearer to eye level, then I can finally feel relaxed, less cynical, and it is as if the world were a little more as it should be.

I can’t speak for everyone. I’ve known some who relish the hustle and bustle of the hoi polloi – it makes them feel alive, that something is about to happen, that the world is opening up to them. I have no idea what percentage of the population would agree with this sentiment, but from my own very biased eyes, I would hazard a guess that more people on Oxford Street feel negatively towards their fellow pedestrians than do those strolling across, or even in sight of, Hyde Park. The no-man’s-land between the two that is Marble Arch must be an emotionally confusing place to be.