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.  




Profile image

Greg Freeman

Tue 13th Oct 2020 18:17

Very thoughtful poem, Peter. I will have to give it some more thought myself.

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message