ANN PILLING: Novelist and Poet

They might have gone already, that grey line
which separates dull sky from duller grass
could be a thread of mist, but it is water
a ribbon fringed with chattering migrants.
They fly up as we edge nearer and go east
in a single streak towards St Barnabas,
skirt the campanile then swarm back
in the shape of a wide stole,
cloud yellow flecked with black
like drift from a bonfire. After that first wing surge
they are silent, they have stopped over our heads
frozen in air, watching the conductor. But we can see
the child's tick of each bird continuously flapping
to keep its position in the dance,
as in a poem, where every word must work
to earn its place.

(from Home Field)

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