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Water, Curlew, Snipe

ISSUE:  Spring 2009
So much is always going on.
Wislawa Szymborska

The snipe that flew up in front of my wellingtons
as I trudged the drowned mud and rushes
to see whether the spate-stream filling the ditch
would spread and seep under the cottage’s
shallow foundations, creep up the unmortared
fieldstone walls in their plaster cladding,

was a quick twist of white and khaki-beige,
a shrill high whistle of panic as it accelerated
low over clumps of sodden grass where cattle
had left deep hoof-shaped pools in which
the grey sky was cracking and gleaming
while the frighted bird flew its haunted zigzag—

hearing over its head the single curlew I’d seen
heading for its safe house in the lee of Letter Hill
or along Ballinakill’s stony seashore, trailing its
lorn lost voice, and leaving the snipe to find
its own haven by the lake, a tuft of drenched heather
to rest a pressured heart in, while I go on tracing

the crook-snake of water uncoiling by the gable.


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