about the birds

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{Watching parakeets as I waited for a train in Dalston made me think of this piece I wrote about 6 years ago musing on ideas of identity and growing up.  Aged 2 I would request to be left in a tree, I suppose so I could get on with being a bird without the distraction of grown-ups’ disbelieving gaze. I still feel like that sometimes.}


High on Hampstead Hill, green arrows herald the dawn
Sharp parakeets, second generation Londoners,
Fly the Northern Line to Clapham Common
Sundays spent at home on the bauble hung Plane trees.


Looking to the sky, the man at the corner knows that
His call to prayer is still a foreign sound,
Parrots screech from the Mosque roof (furniture-store-below-not-an-inch-wasted)
And sound as at home as the schoolgirls,
Who race, hijab-ed, in twos, chattering across the winter skies.

He looks upwards, against all logic, it has started to snow.


You arrived at our bird table in a flurry of green, blushing pink
We were transfixed by you.
You lit the drab April afternoon like a lamp, but you didn’t stay long
And afterwards, we were to comment that you didn’t seem comfortable,
And we worried, when you had left,
About how you’d cope.
It was so cold that Easter after all.


I was startled awake by a sensation not unlike pain.
From each blade of my shoulders came the distinct feeling of movement.
My chest arched as if in convulsion and my arms hung like ghosts.
The moment was fleeting, but as I rolled back into sleep
I knew the little black and white feathers
Tickling my cheek, were just eiderdown.
My feathers would be longer, brighter.


You said as a child I knew all the names of the birds
Did it not occur to you that they knew mine?
I was simply trying to be polite.

I think now we are strangers. The years pass so quickly.


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