Monday, January 18, 2016

Charles Tomlinson: Swifts

Charles Tomlinson

Swifts

 

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Swifts do not sing: 
what they do well 
is sleep on the wing,
moving always higher and higher
in their almost entirely
aerial existence, alighting
only to nest, lay eggs,
rear their young and then
back to the airways
to teach them there
the art of high-speed darting
with narrow swept-back wings
and streamlined bodies:
when swifts descend
they cannot perch, they cling
by hook-shaped toes
to walls and so crawl
into sheltered cavities, into gaps
in eaves and church towers
where they can nest. Summer visitors
they seem always about to leave
and when they finally do
scream in their hundreds
that the time is now,
that the south awaits,
that he who procrastinates
has only the cold to explore
for those succulent insects
who are no longer there.

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