from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Lost Species poem 25: Jeff Hancock

I requested this poem from Jeff Hancock: I remember first hearing it on Iona during my annual retreat week. Although the swallows often return to Devon in late March, frequently I see my first swallow of the year on Iona (also in late March, despite the fact that we're 600 miles further north) swooping past us to net the air for flies. This is a moment of intense joy and jubilation, one I await all year, even as I clock the fact that each year there seem fewer swallows – down here, anyway. But there will be some. Soon. Dispelling that late-winter drab despondency.

Jeff's lines 'Now the chattering sky’s / untenanted' break my heart.


They have gone.
Suddenly there is only absence:the wires stretch blank.
The air filled yesterday with play,
with playtime, shrieks,
a joy-filled rush with wings outstretched
is only air, an aching blank.

We anticipated it.
How could we not?
The wires bird-laden, quiet at first
a silent communion, it seemed,
then chatter; conversation:
building, perhaps, collective bravery
for the long transcontinental leap.

Now the chattering sky’s

Never mind, we say:
they’ll be back.
Next year, next spring
after winter,
when the long dark silent days are over,
they’ll be back:
the swooping stride
from Africa.

They’ll nest again,
their fledglings
swerve and chatter through the deep
as if they’d never been away.

Then the wondering:
will we be here?

© Jeff Hancock 

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