Ornithology

in Verse

You are not good
at lying in wait
by slits in wooden hides
or crawling on your stomach
through moorland
to peer over cliffs
for a single, shimmering egg.
The specialists,
with their brimmed hats
and new binoculars,
their careful speech
and mind for populations —
“200, 000 off these cliffs, alone” –
delight you:
they talk of specimens
and graphs,
their print marches birdlike
over lined pages.
Still, in these open places,
you always find yourself
wandering off
through common scurveygrass
and kidneyvetch,
past the delicate balloons
of sea campion
and the yellow tongue
of bird’s foot trefoil
speaking the names
of the unseen:
curlew, razorbill, skua,
wheatear, kittiwake —
this incantation of nothing
or wings.

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