The crows are in a flap. They swirl
like tea leaves round the tree, then furl.
A buzzard climbs invisible spiral stairs,
biding its time, giving itself airs.
Hold-hammering – what a palaver! –
Great Tit in his balaclava.
Like a silent film with sound,
sparrows’ jerky frames abound.
Magpie! Magpie! Upon your life –
where are your rings? Your pins? Your wife?
Glimpsed at the end of a watery lane,
where the reeds close in – a swan.
There’s nothing left of the jolly jackdaw
but some entrails, a wing and a claw.
Whenever you enter a field
the heron is landing in the next field.
Fillet, pullet, wallet, millet, mullet –
seagull rams it ravenously down his gullet.
A rook and snowman on a lawn
like a black rook and a white pawn.
In the hedgerow, now and then
you overlook a wren.
The skylark’s song unravels all day
while we below make love, make hay.
The blackbird and the brown blackbird:
the first word and the last word.
Mark McGuinness’ poems have appeared in Magma, Oxford Poetry, The Rialto and The
Wolf. He was awarded Third Prize in the 2016 Stephen Spender Prize.