Slender Billed Curlew


1.  They Never Do


In times of plenty birds would fill

The steppe-lands with their songs of spring.

Their wild and wondrous calls and cries:

Beyond the earth, they kissed the skies.


In times of plenty forest swamps

Would swell migration paths with wings

Across the plains and over seas,

And no one saw them as they passed.


In times of plenty people gorged,

Their noses closer to their floors.

They fought their wars and built their roads.

Their eyes were shut, their ears were closed.


And bit by bit the calling stopped:

The spring would come, the songs would not.



2.  Just One More Shot, The Final Breath


Retreating further through the swamps

And pine and permafrosts, alone

The hunter carves his name in bark.

A curlew calls its final dawn.


This stand of stumps and frozen breath

Was chosen by the spring and stars.

This place, this time, this pointless task:

Unknowing breath of man, of bird.


It probes its beak through frozen crust,

Its left foot quivers, head pulls back.

These movements formed in ancient times:

The last this world will ever know.


The hunter picks his kill and leaves

A precious feather to the breeze.



3.    Spirit Birds of Amvrakikos Gulf


Along the shore where the egrets pick

A flock of shadow waders roost.

The echoes of their silent calls

Are heard as ghosts amongst the stars.


But if you look you’ll never see

Again the birds, or hear their calls –

And no-one ever really did.

Their phantoms hug the water’s edge.


Your eyes have seen the taiga’s ice.

Your eyes have seen the dismal swamp.

Your eyes have seen extinction’s wing.

The curlew’s calls are deep within.


Their souls migrate across the gulf:

The shadow birds have lost their way.





20 Comments to “Slender Billed Curlew”

  1. Likely or not the Slender Billed Curlew will be the first European bird since the Great Auk to become extinct. Words are not enough, but…

  2. So sad and your poetry really brings to light the tragedy losing such creatures really is. So well written.

  3. I enjoyed your three, rhymed, bird poems – many lilting phrases and clever vocabulary.

  4. Truly this series broke my heart. Of the writings I have read of yours, today’s is my favorite. Too many birds have already been lost. So much poignancy throughout; but this couplet really packed a gut punch:

    And bit by bit the calling stopped:
    The spring would come, the songs would not.

  5. Imaginative and thought-provoking – I liked the middle section best.

  6. This was like a walk through nature and time, told expertly.

  7. Beautiful, poignant and sad…….I especially loved the same lines Mary note…..”the spring would come, the songs would not.” I am a huge lover of birdsong, any lessening of which is an enormous loss to us all. Beautifully done!

  8. Words probably aren’t enough . . . unless they can get us to listen before it’s too late.

  9. I love the construction of this. Chunky simple worlds used to build an elegant tower.

    Especially like “Their phantoms hug the water’s edge.”

  10. such a tug at my heart.
    Ignore it and it will go away…

  11. You tell a vivid story in this triad, as you address migration, evolution, extinction and man’s role in the transformation. Lyrical as well as instructional with, as always is your style, a delightful rhyme scheme.

  12. I’m taken with your lyrical approach to the more disastrous aspects of the relationship we humans are having with the rest of organic life we share this lovely planet with. I also hear the echo of these lost songs….I’m glad to have found your contemplative response !

  13. oy to lose the song and keep the spring would break my heart…i love to listen from the deck in the mornings…ugh in what we have done as well to destroy many things in our world as well…

  14. But if you look you’ll never see

    Again the birds, or hear their calls –

    Loven your sonnets here, Gavin.

  15. All three of these are really interesting reads, but that first one hit an emotional spot that I wasn’t expecting. Nicely written.

  16. oh it would be terrible to lose their song…just as i write this, still dark outside they already tweet their songs into the awakening sky…

  17. All three so beautiful and sad. Your poetry is so lovely though, it kind of eased the punch of that last line in the first poem.

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