Tuesday, April 23, 2013



It was late in the day –
when the red sun

forces his lever under canopies
and lifts with all his light –

when I first saw, first dreamt
the Smoke-Swallow: indistinct

and cutting collops of air
with his shrewd gray-ghost knife.

I turned and he was gone.


Now he comes with me,
as a cat comes along for a walk,

always at the corner of my eye,
never to be seen straight-on,

leaping, darting, hiding, picking
living sparks of light

out of the air. He never leaves,
never stays; his shrill call

is never quite
within the reach

of human ear.


Dale said...

Image and title gratefully swiped from http://www.blogger.com/profile/01393987883437907945. I deliberately did not look up any origins or explanation before writing the poem: it must be an Old Germanic compound, possibly a kenning. But I know nothing about it, except for recognizing the elements as "smoke" and "swallow."

Dale said...

Oops. Maybe this link will work better? http://5fingerplatz.blogspot.com/

Dave Bonta said...

Very apt. So often my wildlife "sightings" are really more like this kind of half-glimpsing.

Zhoen said...

Sometimes, all you can hear is a persistent call, knowing there must be a bird somewhere.

Rouchswalwe said...

Ei jei jei, dear Dale! I'm sitting here drinking a glass of Wheat-Doppelbock and reading your poem with heart pounding happily. My nickname (Smoke Swallow) was given to me by my Great-Grandmama Anna's closest friend, Hennis Lina. For two reasons, as they later explained. First, they could never find me, for as a girl I'd flutter about the village and sometimes run out into the forest so that the womenfolk were constantly searching for me. "Have you seen our little Rouchswalwe?" they would ask down the main road. The village women would lean out of their windows and point, "I saw her run in that direction an hour ago," and so they would zero in on me eventually. And second, when they finally found me, I was usually covered in dirt and mud and looked like a Barn Swallow.

So you see, dear Dale, you've written a beautiful poem and somehow managed to capture a wee bit of my childhood all in one swoop. I am so happy I found your blog!

Dale said...

I didn't even know -- it's the common name for the bird we call a barn swallow, then, a Rauchschwalbe? I bet they build in chimneys, too, and the name comes from that, eh?

And what a wonderful nickname for a child who darts off unexpectedly! My son was like that, he could vanish in a twinkling :-)

Thanks for the word & the image! xo

Lucy said...

How beautiful! I love

'when the red sun
forces his lever under canopies and lifts with all his light'

One of our summer residents swept past me out of the shed the other day for the first time this year; it is really just a movement, a kind of throb in the air more than a clear shape as they pass. They often don't build in the shed, or they make a messy start, plastering a lump of mud on the beams then giving up, but some years they've raised broods in there. We kind of wish they didn't as it's a bit of a nuisance, but they're very insistent!