Magnetic winds from the sun pour in
and send our instruments akimbo.
Nothing runs like clockwork now.
As skeletal clouds unwreathe our exposure,
panicky citizens climb ladders to hammer
their roofs on harder. A crackle of static,
and the world’s fat face is in shadow.
There are swallow nests under the eaves,
each with a staring cargo: six bronze bibs,
six black-masked, African birds. They dip
and snap the last bees up. A million Ms
foregather with a million others on the sky.
This is the shape that memory takes.
For days they practise flying, then they fly.
from The Nowhere Birds (Bloodaxe 2001), reproduced by permission of Bloodaxe
ON A DROPPED FEATHER
Until the feather tapers like an arrow
it’s a stem of hollow smoky glass
unsnappable from root to subtle tip.
A grounded starling could survive the loss.
This ferny plumage where the shaft begins
is made of down too delicate for flight,
unlike the finny structure of the outer wing,
fashioned for soaring. Perhaps the taut
intrinsic music of a bird comes
from the staves on its small fledged limbs.
The feather’s utmost fibres have all the colour
and congruence of shot silk. From the loud strife
and beating of wings in the sky somewhere
it fell like the notched blade of a knife.
The Curée (from A Quartet For the Falcon)
The Mermaid (from The Sea Cabinet)
The Airship Era