The Language of Birds

The sides of the hill are stubbed with fire-pits. The sky is paraffin blue. A pigeon’s heart swings here on the kissing gate, withered, stuck through with pins, while out on the estuary, beaks of birds needle to the wind’s compass, the sky’s protocol. Swans go singing out to sea, the weather is changing cold. * In the elm above me, a magpie chuckles and turns the magic wand of itself away, towards the light. I climb to the seeing rock high over the pines; a blown squall of rooks rises and settles like ash. I saw the hay marry the fire and the fire walk. The sky went the colour of stone. The cattle sickened: what milk that came came threaded, red as dawn. * Down below, in the grey fall of heather and gorse, a swithering flame. Hooded crows haunt the highway, pulling at roadkill; their heads swivel to watch. I’ve seen them murder their own, the weak or the reare, those with the gift of tongues. I keep an albino one in a box. I can’t leg to of it till it tells me its name. Robin Robertson


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