A FIGHT THAT NEVER ENDS
"The martin and the swallow
are God Almighty's birds to hallow."
Traditional children's rhyme.
"In Upper Sheringham (Norfolk) they explain that when the birds
sit in long rows along the leads of the church they are settling who
to die before they come again."
Notes & Queries. 1849.3rd ser. V.237.
Changing a nappy in the out-house of the Royal Oak
we're surprised by a swallow that's surprised by us,
standing beneath its nest of mud and straw, cemented
on top of the vent. Like all birds in enclosed spaces,
out-sized itself in the flutter of mid-air turning, and out
of our clothes we follow, screaming into air, streamlining
the swooping rise, in buoyant pathways of blue, white arcs.
Before we know it we're up on the telephone line, to find
the land alive; the hedgerows crackling, the hum of aerial plankton,
the grasses heaving, the soil turning with occasions; food, shelter,
quick hunger. Death. The sky is over-stuffed with never-attempted
lifts, scything dives at break-neck speeds as far as our arcs
can glide us, over frothy pints and leaflets on not-to-be-missed
We would wrap these metered fields in whimsical flight-paths
while other birds look on, perplexed by the dance,
the artistry of mud bowls.