&

GS

Feeding

A fluster of pheasants in a field, ten, twenty,
are dotting the food-station stubble. Sixty, or more,
a blunder of big barking birds, gun-fodder,
mad-eyed men in a queue.
Our kids scrabble at the rattling train windows,
tongueing the steamed-up glass,
trampling coats on the carriage floor.
Stand on my lap, clamber onto my shoulders.
I try to gather all that warmth and humour,
draw it into myself. A vampire?
I snap out a bunch of bananas.
They snatch at my hands.

PB

this just in

I wake to find my feathered father
nesting on my chest
who once soared
or hovered looking
clearly like a hawk comes back
dim as an Auk begging to be shot
prayerfully touching
together the tips of his
vestigial wings.
“But pop” I weep “your species
is extinct.” It’s news to him.
“Never mind” he squawks “murder
me again.” It’s the old story:
“I did my dad in many times,
many different ways.”
Filial duty be damned I won’t have
my conscience on his death again.
“Where would you have it?”
He’s gone to my head to
hatch it. His son’s skull warms
under that downy fundament
like a seed in the sun, doomed
soon to bloom.

GS

The willow-ring

He threw me out of the house, saying there was no room
now I was eight foot tall. I gagged
I couldn’t believe it, staring after his turned back
his red apeneck, his slate-blue slacks. I’d thought that blood
was thicker than mortar. So dressed up in camo and green
I went lolloping down to the riverbank
flopped there in the grass, still shaking, for hours,
it seemed the safest way, with vultures about
my little heart going pitter-pat, he said stop.
Look around you. He’d followed me out.
What do you see? Showed me in the lap of green
a semi-circle of bright willow-poles,
roots that had suckered, and sprung
like the vast pale ring around the full moon.
But remember, the true trunk dies.
Can we live, in what we do or make?
Scattering threads of code
that burrow into the future and carry us on.

PB

Pillow-wing

We invert port of call to get
call of port, the notion that
ports can summon vocally. Some
bleat, some bark, but dumb
as it sounds — hark! Now
it comes: the Heathrow meow.
We get Heathrow meow
from he threw me out
(just before tea)
and when he does it comes to me:
meow. How unlike a cat
an airport is. In the cab
to Terminal 3 the road is clear of flying fur
and free of fear I hear the purr.

GS

The storm

(i.m. William Brown)
We hid when the old man came around
with his wheeze and his bunch of padlocks.
In the moonlit dusk there was hardly a sound.
We were cold even huddled together. Soon
there was distant thunder, and lights on the lawn
and a stag-headed figure swaying to an eerie tune
on the sax, a brass band lurched into life.
I had my fingers in my ears, licking the trembling air
and carrying a lantern, there: the ghost of your wife.
We ran helter-skelter down to the lake.
Saw little catspaws squirm on the water,
a storm of geese, a black swan, a Mandarin drake,
and I was scared. I bit my tongue.
We tugged off our shoes and waded out.
You wanted to catch a pelican
in your teeth, the way Greek sailors do,
swallowing the bill and belly. To distract you from the rain
now mottling us in fury, I pushed you,
grabbed a helmless skiff and headed out,
away from the lights and the music and
into the black. You said nowt
behind me – I realised you’d gone. Just gone.
When a boatful of drunken wiggers rammed me,
laughing as they went under, it was no joke
pulled down by the weight of their rings.
The wind was whipping up and I pulled their baby on board,
buttoned him inside my coat, I started to sing.
Little urchin foxcub, he got a faceful of spray
but just blinked and bubbled and I thought
he’s gonna be fine, I’ve gotta save something
from all this. I’ll keep you safe, little man, whatever.
In the lightning flashes, the moon shrank behind cloud.
His pale face looking up, heart fluttering like a fever,
I felt suddenly fierce with this new love I’d found
and I used my hands as paddles to work us on
the way we were heading, no thought of turning round.