Two pairs of magpies strut and preen
across the greened-up garden lawn
behind the house we bought a few months back.
I note once more the lack of birdlife here –
unlike the cosmopolitan crowds that would
serenade us each day from every bough,
loud enough to shake and wake all lovers of
calypso sung and hung on high,
and those who would have preferred
a later start than one designed for birds;
but once awake will listen up, go with the flow
and do without translation into words.
Such moments are, for some, akin to
a kind of ecstasy, for some, forgotten quickly,
a cacophony of too many uncertainties.
But what is plain is that most of us have
enjoyed a free, an easy cohabitation with
those who supply to the nation sights of
birds in flight that constantly delight, yet
spawning a poignancy we must surely sense
in turning faces to beauty’s light, knowing
even best connections can’t outlast
man’s shaking of the natural order,
that life till now will forever be the past.
And so what should I make of these
four ordinary birds that cause us to
wake up and form thoughts that might
resonate among us as uncomfortable, distrusting,
disturbing, fearful? And why do I go on to
seek to settle in my head as correct and
reliable notions such as no despot receives
unpaid support; and no mercenary, nor
his paymaster, will hesitate, when the chips are down,
to leave the other to die in a ditch – they both believe
there are just not enough to go round?
Such was my listless mind when I
saw the four magpies and puzzled over
their importance. I had believed from way back
that floods of unconscious, untouched, virginal thoughts,
suddenly sensing trouble deep inside, may, like
a sailboat coaxed to find safety overnight on an unlit sea
and so groans in whispers at the snubbing of rest,
slip its lines silently to leave berth and harbour that
a few hours before would have been treated as jest.
I did not fully follow the impetus for the
about-turn; though later, over time, I saw that
all reputations were always fragile, particularly those
at their brightest and festooned with garlands to be
replenished regularly way beyond the celebrated
deeds and endeavours. And, at the other end of the spectrum,
the work of the sandwich board walker who plies
the waste-strewn A-roads on his patch without
any goal other than reaching the end before
a simple meal at the day’s distant demise.
Modern Slavery, someone cries.
And as the autumn evening now makes its
presence known by softening blues and spreading pinks
and by turning down the air’s temperature just enough to
cause my arms to accommodate goose pimples by
the tin, I now think I know, after all, what these
dark blue, black and white pomposities call to mind, given
their struts and other military bearings and given their
propensities for making snacks of eggs and infants.
How likely would it be to grow goose pimple limbs
if we all goose step march in keeping our distance?
Amusing musings? I think not – and have
no wish to be lined up against a wall and shot.
Others ask me why I don’t let sleeping dogs lie.
I tend to reply that if their cousins and other kin
were to swear for ever to sleep the sleep of the innocent,
I’d be prepared, if pushed, to give it a think.