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Thirteen Birds by Mark McGuinness

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

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.


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