Friday, 6 March 2015


I was told recently that poems about birds are out of fashion, before this it was the word shard. I am not sure who decides such things, certainly they do not matter.
Here is a poem that mentions herons. It is far from finished, but I think it works in its own way.
Four herons pick over the bones,
clack and caw to reach a decision.
The city is their backdrop.
Sunlight gilds the water.
The herons have set themselves a task,
to sieve the river from end to end.
They argue. This one complains:
I am no pelican, gimlet of eye
With a shovel bill and appetite to match.
Another talks technique,
the proper motion for investigation,
the beak must rise and fall, rise and fall.
A third interrupts attempts to compare the action
to a sewing machine’s needle tip,
glimpsed once through a window,
but language fails, then there is argument.
Crepuscule stains the surface blood…

This is how to sift a river:
start at the mouth, as if French kissing,
note how the current probes back.
As you move up stream
silt may stain, smooth pebble chip tooth.
Gold may gather on your tongue.
Whatever they say,
whatever is promised,
this is a misfortune.
Once the gold has been possessed,
the water strip searched
it’s bed disturbed and left unmade,
there will be nothing.

You cannot now tell the herons apart,
they are a jumble of feather and bone.
The city has been put to the sword.
Oh yes, someone is the richer,
but not you, not yours.
We few that remain,
plum the dirty stream for anything.

I'd be interested in your opinions. I know what I think the poem is about but you may have different ideas.
I leave you with a song from 1980. I used to have the single.


  1. OK, so I see the herons as archetypes of people who are intent on destroying others for their own satisfaction, or maybe a principle they hold. Maybe they are politicians, maybe bankers/captains of industry. Interestingly, herons are protected, so you are not allowed to kill one. Similarly, so many of these corrupt people seem to be protected by laws, money, etc and can destroy at will and get away with it. I thought the poem was extremely powerful, both in the use of individual words and imagery

  2. Thank you H_cat. I appreciate your perceptive comments. I was attempting to convey something of what you say, that those who we protect may not in the end prove beneficial to us as a society. Glad it chimed with you.