Tidying bookshelves again today, I came across this book, first published in 1968. I’d not owned it as a child, but picked up in a charity shop in recent years. Like most British people of my generation, Ladybird books were an integral part of childhood. Their often beautiful illustrations mesmerised us, and helped stimulate imaginations and get us reading.
Inside the cover of this particular book is this detailed diagram of a bird’s wing .
A couple of years ago, I came across this illustration, and a poem began to write itself.
The poem below was subsequently published in ‘The North’, and later collected in this year’s book ‘The Great Animator.’
If I’d have looked it up later that day
I would have found the hollow bone edge
is called the wrist; that a slope descends
to forewing, that overlapping coverts
are lesser, greater, median, and scapulars are where
the back begins. If I could have looked beyond
the raw, torn joint, and stood at the mouth
of my coppice den, to let it fall open
like a satin fan, I’d have seen
the perfect shoulder of the bastard wing,
full flush secondaries
and mantel of the hind, each quill
blue black and slickly primed.
But what it lacked was all I saw
so I ran, as rooks mocked and raved
in the ruin of trees.