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3 poems by Hannah Copley


‘Last seen in his winter plumage. Black and white

from a safe distance, metallic olive at close range.

Undertail coverts rufous, cinnamon tinged,

thin legs of bright red flesh. Almost raw looking.

Often mistaken for Hoopoe, which riles him.

Black pectoral band, white flank, with a dark ring

of colour beneath each eye the thickness of paint.

Longest feather of his crest once boasted at four inches.

Wings an iridescent green. Seen only when flying away.

Will go by Peewit, Plover, Tew-it, Lhapwynche,

Peet-Peet-Peet, Toppy, Kievit, Lappewincke, Pater,

Vanellus Vanellus, Phillipeen.’

Is that all?

‘Just that everything he says sounds like a question.’

Is that all?

And she remembers his stories.

Lapwing, quenched,

slowly tumbling

from high singularity

into the scrape of his thoughts.

Thirst and craving

grounded into

a fuzzed eloquence,

panicked pees weep weep

softening into prose.

Here is something

to feather - this pull

skywards towards

a coded vagary,

the willingness

to come down

from a high place

tied to a sliding scale

of need.

Each morning,

the same boorish dogs,

the same dull threat

of obliteration,

her granted wildness

cordoned into

a neat rectangle.

She is done

with this wintering,

ready for the earth

to give, poised

to scratch for a more tender language.

Progress report

The water snail left to rot,

a sudden need for cow muck

and finally, this sharp pin prick of empathy.

What does it feel like to be stamped on?

What does it feel like to want joy and then receive it?

What does it feel like to be forever in motion?

What does it feel like to forget your child’s name?

What do I know

of the brood before me –

a whole life lived and pecked to fluff –

except for the carnage that sodden

love can leave in its wake.

Each daily observation,

each survey with a view to save him,

the endless dreaming of his outline

concludes fatherhood

to be a temporary resurrection

a wetland given leave from its draining.

I am so lost in all those years of dissembling,

every memory dis-assembled

that it’s possible that I’m hovering above nothing.

I know it’s possible

that I can never be done.

I know it’s possible that I never really met him.


Hannah Copley’s first collection, Speculum, was published in 2021 by Broken Sleep Books. Her second, Lapwing, is forthcoming with Pavilion Poetry in Spring 2024.Hannah is a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Westminster and a poetry editor at Stand magazine.

These poems were selected by Anthropocene Guest Editor Tom Branfoot


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