Poem – Peregrine

Peregrine

1. Foreign, imported from abroad, outlandish.
2. Kind of falcon much used for hawking.

                                  Concise Oxford

The blog sings
Four golden plover, three…
then says the cathedral was table
for woodcock
while the country sat down
to turkey.

The bell-tower’s peregrines open
the ribs of migrants
all winter. And a blackbird
on the North side.

Spring spreads its breast feathers, lets the bald
skin of the sun
brood. The cathedral clock nudges the city
with its long bill. Lenses wait, want
to annunciate.
She will

fidget
four rufous eggs
by the lion-tailed rump of a gargoyle
and several webcam
eyeballs. The nostril in her beak wears the bony
inlet cone of a jet engine.
Even sleep is ascent as her lower lid rises
to close.

A starling’s coverts chequer her ledge. Its hackles, prized
by fly-dressers for wet flies and flymphs,
were cast. The tiercel keeps surfacing from the bottom
of the city.

He blots
a serif of the new
letter ‘R’, the lustre of his feet illuminating the blue
like the idle yellow crane. Only the ‘Y’ to finish
glass-office minting sky. Here,
again in his gloves: on
a stone finial, police aerial, council roof safety rails, stashing
a corpse in a quatrefoil.
Viewers hatch

their global locations
on the blog, a line of tourists sprockets past the telescope
on the green
below, as he reads
them this city,
leaves

the bloodied bill of a snipe, the yellow-green
leg of a moorhen taken
to the radio station. She will
feed
the lead gape
of the nave roof its confetti
of feet and beaks.
A world is

asking,
admiring, angry, arguing; the growing clamour
like the oldest ring
of ten bells in England not
deafening the wing-spreading
chicks

crowding
the tower’s high pavement, opening
and closing their fledging
umbrellas like spoke-dodging
commuters, until the odd gets
caught, spirals off
the cathedral.

The blog uploads
wing bones fossilised in light;
the wind’s angel born
bent. All day,
she will

call.

—–

Note: ‘tiercel’ is the male peregrine and ‘wet flies and flymphs’ are artificial fish bait created by dressing fish hooks with tiny pieces of feather to mimic insects.

Peregrine was Highly Commended in the 2010 York Open Poetry competition and first published in the Scottish-American poetry magazine, The Dark Horse, No. 28. Reviewer Tim Love described it as his favourite poem in that issue. Later, it took flight on the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project blog and was nominated by The Dark Horse for the 2012 Forward Prize Best Single Poem. It became The Dark Horse‘s Featured Poem in 2014, where editor Gerry Cambridge commented:

“If Hughes and Jeffers are to some extent behind this, Hawkridge’s city-centre, webcammed peregrines are, finally, entirely her own, made vivid by thrilling and unexpected details and a bravura use of language (‘rufous’, ‘quatrefoil’, ‘finial’,  ‘flymphs’) and surprising facts: the falcon’s ‘lower lid rises to close’ in sleep, while natural and techological imagery are brilliantly interchangeable: the webcams are ‘eyeballs’; the bird’s beak’s nostril, in an inspired image, is ‘the bony / inlet cone of a jet engine.’

In its dextrously enjambed movement across its line-ends and arresting rhythms (‘by the lion-tailed rump of a gargoyle’!) her poem captures all theperemptory otherness of these breathtaking birds, an otherness accentuated by such a wholly urban setting.”

Peregrine is indebted to the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project blogMy thanks go to blog authors Nick Brown and Nick Moyes in particular.

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