Birdsong for Two Voices

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A spiral ascending the morning,
climbing by means of a song into the sun,
to be sung reciprocally by two birds at intervals
in the same tree but not quite in time.

A song that assembles the earth
out of nine notes and silence.
out of the unformed gloom before dawn
where every tree is a problem to be solved by birdsong.

Crex Crex Corcorovado,
letting their pieces fall where they may,
every dawn divides into the distinct
misgiving between alternate voices

sung repeatedly by two birds at intervals
out of nine notes and silence,
while the sun, with its fingers to the earth,
as the sun proceeds so it gathers instruments:

it gathers the yard with its echoes and scaffolding sounds,
it gathers the swerving away sound of the road,
it gathers the river shivering in a wet field,
it gathers the three small bones in the dark of the eardrum;

it gathers the big bass silence of clouds
and the mind whispering in its shell
and all trees, with their ears to the air,
seeking a steady state and singing it over till it settles.

by Alice Oswald



Yesterday a customer came in to dodge the rain.

He swayed in the doorway nonchalantly. He doesn’t mind the rain. And he’s a reader (he told me).  Leaned back and then forward, examining the books. Shrugged, uninterested. Looked at The Shorter Pepys and said, ‘God! What is it?’ I said nothing. Pepys can take care of himself. I won’t defend Pepys. His behaviour with the maids etc.

This customer took his glasses off and examined Pepys again. He said, ‘Not really reading material. Not a short one either.’ (1154 pages).

He put Pepys back and stood still, whistling, hands in pockets. Bored. He disappeared into the other room. I kept on working away at the counter. He came back and picked up Pepys again.

He rolled his eyes and rocked back and forth. ‘I don’t have time to read. Don’t understand how people do actually. Didn’t really come here for a book, but….. ok. It’s mine.’

He paid, and he and Samuel lurched back out into the strange November rain.



A little girl opened the door to my shop and wedged her face between the lock and the doorway and stared inside, pressing up and down on her toes. She said, ‘This is my dream. This is like Paddington.’
Her mum, coming up behind her said, ‘Come on, we’re going over the road.’ They crossed the road, hand in hand, the little girl still going up and down on her toes, and talking and gesturing backwards and forwards all the way. She had a knitted scarf tied around her waist and one purple sock and one white one.