I have had my thunder stolen by the first major Fall of woodcock. It was an extreme delight to stand out on a regular flightline this evening and find it suddenly filled with flitting, bat-brown commuters as the tawnies skirled and a peachy smear of light was rinsed away from the West.
Idly scrawling out some notes on Tuesday evening in the garden with the moon hanging over me, I had a notion to assemble a poem about that final pregnant moment before the first real Fall. I got distracted, did other things, then found that the Fall had come and the moment to polish the poem and make it something was lost. But reading through it now, I find that I like enough of it to warrant its quick, unceremonious and untitled publication here in its less than half-finished form.
The woods are almost full.
The recent days brought shoals of birds across the Sea from half-imagined lands
Where the trees keep bears and wolves.
Now redwings creep in our fallen leaves
And fearless chatting ‘fares bend the loaded scrub.
The haws are begging to be had;
Each lusting bulb is served on a jet black tee.
But there is room for one more gust of life from the East.
Even as I breathe,
The cold wind carries a soft-eyed boon across the waves, still reeking of moss and moulding brash;
Envoys from the herbal mires of old Norway and Russia.
I’m told that some years they fail and fall to the Sea like down:
The grey tide laps them up and they are gone.
These birds were never meant to cut through brine and roaring spume,
But the salt water rose steadily over many generations
And now four hundred miles of churning, chopping waste lie between their Summer and Winter,
And the seasons pull them back and forth on a fine and fatal thread.
As the moon rose fat and blithe between the birches this evening,
The ground smelled of damp soil and the rusted wracks of bracken.
The thrushes flew to roost like bulbs between the hips and sloes.
This is the kind of night when they choose to come.
They will Fall with the same gentle lightness
Of steaming breath around the moon –