Summer of the Ladybirds

By Vivian Smith b. 1933 Vivian Smith
Can we learn wisdom watching insects now,
or just the art of quiet observation?
Creatures from the world of leaf and flower
marking weather’s variation.
The huge dry summer of the ladybirds
(we thought we’d never feel such heat again)
started with white cabbage butterflies
sipping at thin trickles in the drain.
Then one by one the ladybirds appeared
obeying some far purpose or design.
We marvelled at their numbers in the garden,
grouped together, shuffling in a line.
Each day a few strays turned up at the table,
the children laughed to see them near the jam
exploring round the edges of a spoon.
One tried to drink the moisture on my arm.
How random and how frail seemed their lives,
and yet how they persisted, refugees,
saving energy by keeping still
and hiding in the grass and in the trees.
And then one day they vanished overnight.
Clouds gathered, storm exploded, weather cleared.
And all the wishes that we might have had
in such abundance simply disappeared.

Vivian Smith, “Summer of the Ladybirds” text from New Selected Poems, Angus & Robertson, 1995; audio from The Other Side of Things, Audio CD, 2008: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 2008 by Vivian Smith.

Source: New Selected Poems (Angus & Robertson, 1995)

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Poet Vivian Smith b. 1933

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Subjects Nature, Animals, Summer, Weather, Living, Life Choices

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Metaphor


Literary critic and editor Vivian Smith was born in Hobart, Tasmania. He earned an MA in French from the University of Tasmania, teaching in the French Department before moving to Sydney to earn his PhD in English at the University of Sydney. His books include The Other Meaning (1956), An Island South (1967), Familiar Places (1978), Tide Country (1982), Selected Poems (1985), New Selected Poems (1995), Late News (2000), The . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Summer, Weather, Living, Life Choices

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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