A Northern Morning

It rained from dawn. The fire died in the night.

I poured hot water on some foreign leaves;

I brought the fire to life. Comfort

spread from the kitchen like a taste of chocolate

through the head-waters of a body,

accompanied by that little-water-music.

The knotted veins of the old house tremble and carry

a louder burden: the audience joining in.

People are peaceful in a world so lavish

with the ingredients of life:

the world of breakfast easy as Tahiti.

But we must leave. Head down in my new coat

I dodge to the High Street conscious of my fellows

damp and sad in their vegetable fibres.

But by the bus-stop I look up: the spring trees

exult in the downpour, radiant, clean for hours:

This is the life! This is the only life!

Alistair Elliot (1932 – 2018)

Painting by Larry Bracegirdle

This morning, the magpies

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This morning there are two magpies. They cast their sounds out and up, haul them back and throw them again. Then they stop, and other birds take over. Then they all stop; someone is hammering in a shed nearby. The hammering stops. The birds begin again at once, lashing the morning with too much news. My cat is on the step and I am packing books to take to the shop. My cat is crouched down with eyes like hairpins, hating the bird noise.

The magpies drop a couple of final calls, stripes of sound that float and rise, split quietly and bow, ironic, over the rest of the screamers, who sit with beaks open and feathers dazed.

The birds are quiet. My cat sits up, and I go to work.

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

Virginia Woolf

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“So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea.”

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Breathing the Coffee

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They were moving along the pavement this morning, past my shop, past me setting up the signs, the little boy was running lightly along the air and his father was following, balancing two cups of coffee and drinking from both, holding them at elbow height and leaning back, breathing the relief.

The little boy stopped to check the sky three times. Then he said: I’ll just go this much in front, I’ll just go along out of here and he measured his steps precisely, looking back at his father’s feet and keeping in front just a little way, then more, then more, breathing the happiness. Then he was miles in front and heading for a caravan parked down the road and the father following with his elbows out. Two ladies were passing the other way and looking on critically and one said to the child just watch yourself and then they were level with me, looking past me into my window and one said to her friend, don’t think we’ll get much in there. And then they were finished and passed by me too, breathing the discontent.

 

This morning it was not possible to sleep.

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This morning, it was not possible to sleep past five am because the air was spoked through with bird call, too much of it, and mostly it is the pink and grey galahs and also the white corellas that moved in before Christmas and have not yet packed up their campsites. Sometimes they all shout at once.

The lemon light is already warm, and it is stitched through with too many birds. I am outside on the lawn and can see through the window that Max is awake, standing up in his cot and looking out with his hair sticking upwards, rumpled, warm. He is looking out through the window into the green, holding his head, with the sticking up hair to one side, looking gravely into the feathered and beautiful morning which is where I am standing, right in it, wondering what it is I have right now, joy or sorrow. I can see Max listening to the birds as they inform him that he is awake.