Poem: The Kingfisher day

My wife has been actively hoping to see a Kingfisher for even longer than the 18 years we have loved each other. Various trips on or by various likely rivers – especially the Stour at Wimborne and the Severn at Symonds Yat – didn’t deliver. The much less purely rural Thames at Marlow did, though.

The Kingfisher day

If I were Roman
I could talk of portents
and cast bits of chicken
to seek the meaning in them.

As it was, it didn’t seem
a special day, or odd.

The summer
had grown beyond youthfulness;
it was in its prime
and Henley was in its weekday busy calm.

A few miles west,
we’d walked,
the dog and I;
had seen the late cut hay
spread and drying.
At one place it seemed like
a youth’s hair,
fine and highlighted,
in whispy rows.

On the swell of a grassed down
a buzzard cast a shifting shadow
at our six feet.

In the woods below
a kite’s young cried out
as imperious as a dog whistle
and sometimes
rising to a teenage squeal.
And somewhere within range
one imagines
the parent,
as bright as a child’s Red Indian headdress,
out spotting
fresh roadkill
or bacon on a well-mannered lawn.

You and I went to the riverside park in Marlow,
where plump young mums
made a loose circle
for their pow-wow,
safely within reach of toilets
and the ice cream van,
while their ripening daughters,
princessy in gauzy pink,
showed off scooters and trikes
and one –
a lilac bike.

And we, early birds,
had had our Waitrose salads
and tap water in an Evian bottle
and sat, demure, and yet sparky,
in pride of place
on Salter’s river trip cruiser.

And, later,
your secret having been revealed to a fellow traveller
just behind you,
as we glided beside
the quiet unhoused meadowland,
a jolt,
a shock,
bolts through the boat –
through crew, tourists, you and me:
“There’s your bird!”, cries your new friend.

She heralds,
an unnecessary split second late,
that commanding unbidden flash
a Kingfisher makes,
hoped-for but not expected.

It had a reptilian sheen,
a jeweller’s polish.
It is a moment which won’t stay still
and won’t be hurried, either.

It is like inspiration, or a dream,
it is rare and ordinary,
quotidian and priceless.

It is perfect,
for those such as us,
who have all the time in the world,
and perhaps very little.

And you are worth it of course.


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Publication date

09 August 2014


RDN's poems