Hong Kong’s most striking bird, again with inspiration from Ted Hughes’s Crow.
I sweep over hillside, watching
For the twitching leaf, the leaf revealing
A small creature, its body trembling
Under shrub in life’s jeopardy, waiting
Until I have swept by.
On, on: out into the tall forest of towers –
Great shining trunks that flash in the sun,
The dead acrid smell rising in the heat,
The cacophony of harsh voices in the canyons below –
I wheel against a smooth dark cliff and am gone.
Sudden out of shadow into sun.
Warm on my back, the sun beats up from the leaves
Sustaining me as I glide, cool through the air,
Effortlessly in arcs up the valley:
My valley, mastering me, mine.
Wheeling low, I smell the sap in the leaves
The dark scent of the soil.
The hillside teems with life, with food.
There, beneath a twig, a bird
Unaware that I hover above.
I could strike suddenly
In a hurtling swoop of furled pinions,
Grip in my talons and lift and tear:
Tear the briefly-squealing life until it is limp
And dripping from my beak.
Yet I fly on – giver of life as well as taker –
On, on, past hill and crag, out over waste of water,
Glinting in the sun, myriad wavelets moving;
Until there, washed up in flotsam and foam:
The belly of a dead fish.
Stinking, salt, ripe – flesh to become my flesh:
I tear and pull at the carcass, impatient in my eagerness,
Arch my neck and bolt down yellowing hunks,
Tear yet more, and peck at the glassy eyes,
Till, satiated at last, I stand over the remains,
Guarding against the gulls that float nearby,
Waiting until I am gone.
I give the carcass one last pull
And depart, heaving myself heavy into the air
Yellow and heavy now with the declining day.
Warm air currents lift me from sea to land,
Up, up the valley, sweeping in curves
Up to the highest point – and there my fellows gather,
Circling silently as the light fails:
Completing the ritual of the day
Copyright © Matthew Harrison, 2009