May Day


London is quiet.

It is nine o’clock

On Saturday morning

Outside the British Library.

They wait for the doors to open.


Of all ages, of all nations,

Bags under their eyes

And at their sides,

Bookworms at the slip,

Their troubled dreams

To be cleared by

Another person’s words.


Under a high ceiling

Filtering in light

A circle of security at the desk

To wrap around

Troublesome desires.


They read another woman’s thoughts

They share another man’s feelings

They place footnotes

To past lives and his stories

Foot soldiers of the half-truth,

Bearers of white lies,

They feel secure behind

A pile of books.


I am safer that way.

I read therefore

I am not.

Better to sit than to act,

Better to note than to write,

Better to keep silent than to speak

Better to measure the days

In a rotation of pages

Than to halt the clock

In a spontaneous surge

Of creative disquiet

To allow Imagination be free.


Where are the May Day

Lovers kissing under

The apple blossom?


It is not too late:

The sun still shines in the courtyard

And a warm wind blows from the south.


They came from the four corners

To the stone circle

On the wet moor

Before dawn,


From Tavistock, Totnes,

Plymouth and Okehampton,

From Cornwall and Devon

And much further afield.


To celebrate Beltane,

Half-way between the spring

Equinox and the summer solstice.


And I did not forget

The workers and peasants

Of the world.


Instead of dancing

Around a maypole

A cellist played

In the centre of the ring.


Her cello planted deep in the earth,

Her music reaching the heavens,

Mingling with

The music of the spheres.

Wild horses

Stamped on wet grass,

Peaty water in the stream

Appeared to go uphill.

Mist swirled in the hollows

And around the tors,

Slowly evaporating in

The climbing sun.




Peter Marshal
Photos Elizabeth Ashton Hill


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