Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Ornithology in the Balkans

Ornithology in the Balkans

It wasn't the Muslim weddings that took our eye
on that alluvial floodplain so much
as bent-wire cages under every tree,
goldfinches' less than common soliciting
beside trapped black squirrels and a dove.
At xhiro hour, along streets of dark stairwells,
the hawkers were out, their not so fair trade
drawing buyers who swooped on bargains
and took promises of health and long life
as just so much hot air. On the fly,
you might have been taken in
by flashes of iridescence or plain song.
Above the mountains of another country,
the rumoured eagles were predominantly crows.

Because, at one time, there was more
than some doubt, above the disputed town,
its castle flaunts a history of sieges
in so many collapsing balustrades,
and the milk-white dribble between stones
which is said to seep from the breast
of the wife sacrificed to complete it.
Across the promontory's ruined terrain,
we were trying to work out which wall
had belonged to which religion
when, against the faithless sky,
a squadron flew in: dandyish pigeons,
bred for it, stumbling around,
hunting down a roost in feathery galoshes.

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