The Remarkable Absence of Birds
At Xian’s Little Goose Pagoda at last
I find the birds. Not many, they cluster
round an ancient two-wheeled cart
that also rests on the grass. Leaves
lie thickly, brown as these sparrows.
From dun brown tower of ‘Il Cennino’,
under dark oak beams, ribbed tiles,
I see at last the swoop of circling swallows
le rondine, nesting in sheltered eaves.
By home and hearth we too had awaited flight.
In Salcombe’s night of storm I strain
to hear fabled moaning of the bar.
Comes morning, and from casement open
I can see to where green meadows cleave
to headland across the gull-strewn bay.
Now our home garden is alive with sound
and flutter of a nomad crew. Clean
mudlarks dip and drink, honeyeaters fumble
gold dusted bottle-brush like thieves
in a crowded market. Wattlers scold
and scatter in our almond tree, where
twenty-eight parrots dissect nuts, adroitly
passed from claw to beak. From Malabar
step and stoop in grass a pair of doves,
immune to willy-wagtail’s chiddying fuss.
Thriving here beneath our sun reminds
that under their plumage beat dinosaur hearts,
their long flight from some global winter
they loved life. And this
determines who survives.
Reprinted with permission of the author from Redshift Cosmology (2009)
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