Writer and storyteller

Bear by Rima Staines

This poem originally appeared in 2017 in the journal, Fiddler’s Green. It was published here on National Poetry Day, 2017. If you like it, do This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Lapwing Stars

The lapwings have it, no doubt;
Seen across the field, their green-black
Backs are the measure of mystery
For every colour as yet unseen by the boy.

The thin seam of coal by the brook,
Beneath a humpbacked bridge
Of brick and moss over a slow lap
Of water: that has it;
He mines in tan clay with a spoon,
Slick with rain, as sure of riches
As an oil-baron or a king.
The coal has it, but it is not black.

The pheasant in the spinney has it;
Half-glimpsed, gold as a fairytale thread.
As the boy steps between the trees,
Time peels away like leaves of bark,
Century by century by century.

A fossil in the Suffolk flint has it.
The old figure in the bright field is it.
Cadair Idris magnifies it.
Forebears in calves’ hides, they have it;
Their waterfall vigils make it afresh.
Finger-touch, breath-join, skin-meet,
That remembering kindles it.
A fire made of flesh and lightning.

The boy watches wheat-stubble burn;
A hawk chases a blackbird through the hedge;
The ground cracks open, endlessly.
Memory is this thing’s echo,
The tip of its tail, the print of its
Fleet-foot, the fur in the bramble,
The musk of it on a gatepost in winter.

I know it through the bright star-belt,
Seen clearly in the night of my fast.
I am a vagabond, drifting from it
Like a rudderless boat, numbed,
Thick, graceless as a tripped foot.
But, in that moment of remembering:
Lapwing, coal, pheasant, fire;
Fossil, mountain, waterfall, wife…

I know its place in heaven.

I shake my head. Time colludes with the stars.
The centuries emerge and the lapwing calls:
Pee-wit! Pee-wit! Pee-wit!
I sight it through the gathering dark,
Push at the water with my idiot hands
And steer my clumsy craft towards it.

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