Conversations at a Distance

‘In Solitude, for Company’ W.H.Auden

Blue Tits

There is still warm-blooded life in these battered fields.

Among flailed twigs – a flicker of blue-sky crown, a pale breast;

your movements like the flap and pause of a late bramble leaf

turning over in the autumn wind.

Mimicry, the protective conduct of hedge birds – presumably

perfected on former edges of wild understorey, still serves you well.

Ring Ouzel

There is still life up here where winter hangs on

in the riever’s den up in the Hen Hole, overshadowed

black peat path weaving into the hill, roar of

a deep hidden burn, scatter of old rockfall

desolation, the cold boulders we climb.

Almost unbearable, this mountain gloom. Then

over the meltwater diapason

from under a wet rock, comes your spirit song.


understand air as an open system, adiabatic, chaotic;

how to be tossed in it, how to surf the wind’s upthrust,

to swoop love songs in four-dimensional space. You two

are nothing to do with me. This demonstration

is for continuing an idea of air, beyond me,

my boots on the ground.

Although somehow

you voice my sorrow for the retreating horizons.

Hedge Sparrow

Very close to the earth, and very close

to the kitchen door, I caught you

full face, and there was no face.

Little black beak little eyes

dark as deep time.


I knew you were there all the time

when I searched the bushes with binoculars

in the green spring. Yours was the inexplicably

sad song. But now you stand plain among yellow

remaining leaves in the field-maple, singing

quite cheerfully. Perhaps to me.


(Tears in the Fence,  2021)

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