OH TO BE WINGED                                                                         


Sometimes it’s time for the wonderful wind,

even the lightest breeze, to just quieten down,

do as it’s told, blow somewhere over there,

there in the background, and let other

voices be bold, be heard, be stirred up

enough to stake a claim on my attention.

Today is such a day, in fact the winds have

stilled of their own accord and I find myself

applauding (oh so quietly, so as not to disturb) the

eternal cross-conversations, effortless orchestrations of

birds, yes wooing, preening, feeding, stealing but,

most birdworthy of all, just singing their hearts out –


or so it seems to me, ignorant of the lives of birds

I can only guess the meaning of the messages, to

what they are addressed, to whom left. Surely they are

telling the same short story to the world? There are

no hired audiences perched on comfy boughs,

listening carefully, taking it in, dabbing the odd tear.

No, none that understands is waiting about, they’re all

out there, rushing to and fro’, picking out the odd

note, in the right language, amid the cacophony

of chits, chats, whistles, coos, not forgetting the

trills, squawks and cocky cuckoos – the latest

news, I suppose, on weather waiting in the

wings, on gardeners doing funny things (like

leaving all the worms for birds), the sights and

sounds of friends and foes, how frightful are those

human toes, why old men count them no-one knows?


And flight, aren’t they the best and luckiest of

all the wondrous things that share this Earth?

Because they own the skies, the chosen few

they have the very best of views of what the

sluggish, slow and dull things do, crawling,

creeping down below, no good ideas for when it

snows – like just going somewhere else! We

dream about their freedom in the air and, if

dreams have dried, our thought-wings drooped,

we just “make do” and sit and stare.


Which is good, to a point – at which we

walk the woods, squelch the sands or

wander across fields hand in hand – but

somehow it feels we have concrete feet and

even our fleetest athletes seem to me

closer to the laziest snail than to the

dowdiest sparrow; to the three-wheeled barrow

than the sleek swift or the stylish swallow. And the

bulging, stretching neck of our sprinter really is

more akin to a tortoise munching cabbage leaves

than the gliding spear of the goose in flight.

Such sight has no parallel and well might we

watch, humbled, chastened, silenced, resigned,

accepting the fact of our primitive design.


And yet…what of this pen? What of that brush?

What of the soaring sweetness of that violin?

How do we begin to say what we create

moment by moment? The story in (or hidden

by) the book, those wordless feelings as we

look at a canvass, the stunned silence

before the majesty of that choir, a mosaic of

ordinary men and women with god-given

chords – all these honestly conspire to

make the case, again, that goodness is the

beginning, middle and end, so long as we have

minds to discern anything at all. But you may say


too much of our labour, our skills, is employed in

strife and war – surely we are indeed base when

we allow, invite, encourage force to be the law, to

decide so much? A ballet cannot blunt a blade or

stem the blood. A poem cannot feed the flood of

millions who live only for death, breath slowing,

now gone. What might have been done?

He looks like my son. And does this not take us

right inside, close to where we need to be in

all things? And we are, all, in all of these things,

together, because we are all the same; and

when we dispose of him or her who has no name, we

dispose of our nearest, we dispose of our own.

They belong to no-one else. And he who holds the

whip and the gun cannot kill everyone.


So let us earn our birdsong on fine summer nights,

so we may say we have given first, then enjoyed.

For sure the sound will be that much sweeter,

when we have cleared the confusion of what

lies beyond ourselves yet is for us to bring inside

and nourish. Then, yes, with a flourish we can

show those birds a thing or two: like sit in trees,

sing in tune and – who knows – fly sometime,

sometime, maybe sometime, soon.









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