Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

Two poems by Oliver Comins

Early Doors

They always said the larks were here in spirit,
having disappeared while meadows were transformed
to streets and drains when this became a gardened suburb.

Heading for their allotment, my neighbours rose early
to catch the day’s best light. On relished mornings,
blessed with beginning, the earth still damp with dew
welcomed their trays of tender seedlings.

Each year, they grew consistent rows of veg –
lettuce, radish and marrow at measured intervals.
Some years were right for beans and others not.
They forced their rhubarb for eating in the Spring,
always cut back the raspberry canes in time.

When they returned, to consume a late lunch
in early afternoon, we would overhear their plans
for second crops — two raucous voices
reaching us through a gaping kitchen door.

‘Early Doors’ is another poem from the Neighbour’s Carer sequence,
from which
Wild Court published ‘Gardening’ and ‘An Evening Stroll’ in 2022.

Getting Out

Cricket on Richmond Green, September 2020

Some groups of us are sitting beneath these trees
not far from the boundary. There is a possibility
the cricketers we are watching are as tall and lithe
as they appear to be. Sunshine is trying to enjoy
their movement in the field, most of them taking
a few steps in with each ball of a spinner’s over.
The quicker bowler who follows needs more time.
Tension builds while he walks back to his mark,
is embellished by his show of menace as he turns.

For once, a batter strikes the ball quite sweetly
and there is a flurry in the covers when his shot,
not timed to perfection, is stopped by a fielder.
The batsmen jog an easy single, breathing deeply.
Now we see that, physically, they are not two teams
of finely tuned athletes being enhanced by the sun.
Rather, they are some men attempting to squeeze
a little of the summer game from a damaged year,
wearing whites they have not worn for months.

As cricketers, they look the part in limited ways.
Their straight bats are rarely as vertical as required.
They seem to consider a straight ball to be unfair,
which is something the bowlers achieve less often.
Somehow, they have attracted a socially distanced
gathering of spectators, sitting in the trees’ shade
or basking in little circles around the boundary.
How did we get here and how many of us knew
our destination was this suburban village green?

The Cricketers Inn behind us has a small assembly
of customers. This is not a time to be conducting
a roaring trade. A player enjoys a cross bat swipe,
from leg, for four. The next ball is clearly tempting,
but flattens middle stump. The English among us
mumble to one another and there are conversations
in Italian and Polish too. A woman negotiates space
on a bench for a friend, with crutches, and a man,
speaking Urdu on his phone, moves to make room.

The air around the Green is warm enough for there
to be a good supply of insects. A flight of swallows
is likely to arrive here in a while and make a kind
of show above us, chasing prey to feed themselves
before they leave to travel somewhere far away.
The match will finish soon. I wonder if everyone
will depart immediately. Most likely, we will stay
to savour the unusual brightness of the afternoon
and a beguiling sense of comfort at being together.

An earlier version of ‘Getting Out’ with a different title
was short-listed for the Café Writers Poetry Competition 2020.