Whooper Swans – Richard J Whiting

Submitted by R J Whiting on Tue, 24/11/2015 - 19:30

Whooper Swans
(Ouse Washes, Cambridgeshire)

His faculty for recognition was almost gone.
The crowd of sleeping godwits,
long bills tucked under their wings,
were golden plover,
dunlin, starlings,
and had we seen a
t-tuf-ted duck?

Out on the grasslands
I showed him six curlew
through the 'scope,
his shaking hand holding the lens,
his eyeball travelling
slowly left to right.
Feed-ing, he said.

His daughter poured him coffee.
He drank slowly, uneasily
she helped him to slant the cup,
open a packet of crisps,
remember to eat,
told me how he still
loved the countryside.

And when the waders were spooked
we searched in vain
for a peregrine falcon,
seeing instead a fox
with a widgeon across its jaws,
jogging nonchalantly
across the wash.

As the birds reassembled
and dabbled for grain,
the first winter swans trumpeted
their arrival through the clouds.
Who- Who- Whoopers! the old man said,
as simultaneously, word and bird
touched down together.

Copyright © 2015 Richard J Whiting

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