Trapped Swallow


The trees are quiet and moist, they stand
attentive as good children in new clothes,
hands folded before them. I have washed
the blanket and am struggling to heave
its damp mass over the yellow plastic of the line.
It was marked with the swallow's panic,
the swallow I found in the stairwell,
exploding off ceilings and doors;
I caught up with it at last,
scrabbling the window behind a row of pot plants,
closed my hand on its air-tight life,
opened a door and threw it up into the sky. My life
is small and I would have it
no other way. The first whitethorn
has broken and martins flicker and skim. Last night,
by the river, I noted the scream of the swifts.
Two grey herons rose up from the bank
and went lumbering into the trees.
Further down, the raven flung
its harsh cry from the woods. It broke
and circled, its blunt wings drubbing the air. A little wind
has come up now, out of nowhere, and with it
a misting of rain. I reverse my heave and pull
at the blanket's felt. With the swallow
suddenly quiet in my hand
I felt the weight of privilege: my dense flesh sheltering
its weightless life. The privilege
crept into my sleep and I woke with it
today. I have this small, deep pain
of understanding nothing. The spring is changing
into summer and I keep adding
years to my life.

- Kerry Hardie

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