The Hamadryad’s Witness

The month of May was brighter, warmer when
young Pertelote had tamed proud Chanticleer.
The moon of then waxed brighter, warning them
of the coal-tip fox. The fowl could see their fears.
They ranged a world of hart, shallot and thyme
and did not live, as do their heirs, in boxes.
It’s said they sang. Per Chaucer, they could rhyme.
It was not heaven: birds died then of poxes,
and ancients suffered painful nights, but feigned
that they were fit by day — few changes there.
Men’s councils grew, and herd allotments reigned.
From Wall to Malvern, men killed off the bear.
The men feed scrapied sheep now to their cows.
The fading started when they ditched the Druid vows.

Coot-Swallow, Everyone!

Auguries require a due respect
to count for anything influencing deeds,
though reckoning backwards helps, as you’d expect,
convince us they relate to human needs.

To name the day for the first birds you see
is smarter than to study economics,
enough to recommend, it seems to me,
it over college, reading Sunday comics,

consulting stars, or running phrases on.
Exceeding science, it comes near religion.
I have a portent I can base this on,
my horse came in a winner on Crow-Pigeon.

Coot-Swallow, everyone!
It’s a glorious spring day here. A coot-swallow day, to name the day after the first two birds I saw after going outside this morning. I had provisionally thought today was Dove-Weathervane, but looking out the window does not count.


The clock I race retires its ticks sometimes,
till I can only trace its whirring hands;
or it hides its face from even me, and climbs
up to the sun to dial foreign lands
which pirouette in answer to its ring.
How can there be so much I just now see?
More belles to ring, their beaux who bring
them wan I Ching: Blind cats that sing
and roosters wring. Fat flounders fling
their flukes to cling onto the Ming
vase that goes ping. Large turkey wing
tied down with string. Loose words that zing.
Post-shaving sting. I’m in the swing.
Rewind the spring. God save the King.
Rewind the spring. Spring. Spring. Spring. Spring.

Springtime Near-Tree Neighbours

What are these jackdaws saying? I don’t know.
I need translations for the parts I hear.
The conversations of this smallest crow
come through my window loud and klaxon clear
but are more Greek than English to my ear.
These jackdaws lodge most seasons in the tower
of the giant church and grace the sunset hour
with flying squads whose aerial antics bring
them my applause, but now when blossoms flower
they nest as couples, celebrating Spring.

The Flying Season

The flying ant ascends the title page.
I gently show it where the flyleaf is
and watch, in what’s near rapture, it engage
the letters there. I watch its white wings fizz

across bold letters black as its fierce face.
I wonder as it wanders on a word
can words abstract a share of pride of place
in soft sonatas I have almost heard

and then, on waking, dream I only dreamed?
The flying ant seeks purchase on the spine.
I lift the book and watch this small ant gleam
in this, its night of future auld lang syne.

Like books, the ant exists, is here right now.
Like ants, I fly. We don’t know why or how.

April’s Flowers

If I knew all the colours’ names
I would not know enough
to catalogue the tulip’s flames
in these fields lined with rough
wet grasses where the great swans feed
and grebes give grebe chicks rides
through waterways that squarely lead
to dikes that damp the tides.

For miles and miles the tulips grow
in every shade then some:
lavender, and furnace glow;
purest black, and plum.
Reds so hard they hurt your eyes,
greens as pale as smiles
exchanged by lawyers, blues like skies
and golds that gleam like piles

of museum treasures in the sun
that recalls tulips when they’re done.

Skiagram Strokes of Morning Mercy

The duck song wakes me, singing our canal
into existence, snipping bolts of dark
from the cloaks the waking duck-and-coot cabal
flew in the face of nighttime in the park.

Crows fly until the sun, touched, tips the earth
so light leaks in. Wood pigeons coo the grass.

A falcon scream creates a stream that’s worth
a trip, the other birds think, and they pass
my window in review in ones and twos.

Their songs connect canal and stream to lakes
where herons intone fish and note which choose
to dive or be the breakfast they will take.

I, also recreated by bird song,
salute the flocks and, singing, fly along.