Sunday, 7 May 2017


Early morning
     air’s damp linen breath,
          the shadow play of chestnut leaves –
               limp parasols –
                    against the shed

algae scumbled
     on pinewood boards,
          cherry trees clustering
                their snow blossom
                     and bluebells’ azure haze

small birds
     in their hedge vocations,
          a willow warbler
               so close I see its eyestripe,
                    its eye’s defiant shine

iterations of bird song,
     a fugue without a score.
           I think of those
               who make notes
                    and drawings in war,
who, like Elijah, are kept by birds.

© Mary Robinson 2018

The glorious weather we’ve experienced in Cumbria this week has caught us by surprise, as the weather in the British Isles usually does.  Blue skies and brilliant sunshine have made everyone more cheerful and we go round happily talking in clichés – Isn’t it a lovely day?  Isn’t it wonderful to see the sunshine?  Long may it last etc, etc. 

This poem, a quick sketch really, was jotted down a few days ago.  I woke early and wanted to get something down to respond to another beautiful morning.

Is this a cop-out when the radio news reminds me daily that so many people are living under very different (and difficult) circumstances from my own?  I thought of the ways that birds have helped people to survive.  This took me back to the story of Elijah fed by ravens in the Bible (Norman Nicholson relocated this story to a Cumbrian setting in his poem ‘The Raven’).   But it also took me to ‘those/who make notes/and drawings in war’ – specifically I was thinking of those who were interned in prisoner of war camps during the Second World War .  Some of them – for example, Peter Conder, John Buxton, George Waterston, John Barrett – went on to play an active part in post-war nature conservation.   They were metaphorically fed by birds.

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