Shaggy-coated, draped
Like a shabby student throw
Used as wall art; feather
Duster-ends to streaked wings
Folded in, double-backed,
Used but for balance.

Long-fringed; twitching eyes;
Articulate toes, grip the river-edge,
High-kneed, deliberate strides,
Avoid the trip wires; trigger alarms;
His reflection, his shadow;
Exist only in another plane.

Below, winding fish shoals
Edge closer to the bank,
Attracted by the briny aeration
Of a stream crackling down rocks;
They are observed,
With detached focus.

The spear-point head retracts;
The neck, curved yet taught;
The prey… oblivious.


Four manatee

I feel at home on the water although my experience is limited: it’s a dangerous combination: a sea dog without the sea legs. But not today, fortunately. The weather was hot; with a lulling, lilting breeze off the sea rippling the surface of the gulf we were kayaking in. The rhythmic roll and pull of the paddle; the water slapping the hull; a small wake behind: the hours disappeared without a breath.

We made our way around low mangrove islands; their tendril roots hanging down like wizard’s boney fingers; spider crabs infesting them, scrambling up the roots to overhead branches, scrabbling, running, hanging; eyes on stalks peeking at you as we passed below their woodland home.  Urbanisations of oysters shells on the water line; popping and cracking with the movement of the tides and the flushing of the bath-warm water through them, like a forest fire catching, the distant sound of flames. A heron; stark white; black mascaraed eyes, standing in a shadowed break in the stream; the perfect spot, above the shallows. He eyes us briefly but his gaze is elsewhere, in the green waters below him, the plants fanning lazily, hermit crabs unfurling; and then; a recoiled neck, a spearing dart and a fish in his beak shaking. He shakes too, his neck quivers, gulping the fish down. Then the cycle starts again.  In the shallows outside the tunnel, grey mullet in shoals scitter randomly; needlefish spearing through the water with purpose; above ospreys pipe and watch what we watch but with different intent.

As we head for home a curving green arc in the water and a snout; a blow and a small plume of water.   Urgent calls; at first, it looks like a seal, but no; the broad, boxy snout is the give away: a sea cow, a manatee – at first, a pair we think, as two heads rise together entwined. We lightly turn our boats to follow them, and realise there are four, hoovering the sea grasses and rich silts under the shallow bay; arching their backs to dive; returning to the surface to idly chew and breathe. Their movements in slow-mo, considered, unhurried: their focus, feeding.  Not meaning to scare we keep our distance; but after brief curiosity, the manatees ignore us and at one point pass below our boat; cormorants hoping for stray fish follow them brushing our hull.



grey_heron_ireland2_fotorA looming grey morning by the river, mist whispering through the bent reeds and feather-ended grasses that wave, regally, breezily. Afar, a loose brush stroke of blue; a distant sun illuminating the lower Peaks flourescently; shining like a glint of silver on an old clock face.

The longnix, the grey predator, stands stock still on the river bank. Her movements are imperceptible; geologic, intent-filled. Statuesque, she eyes a river rock pool, flush with bright gravel and water-oiled cobbles; previously I had seen her nestling under an overhanging tor worn smooth by the persistent, urgent caresses of the wind, in the long grass, hard staring the opal black water.    She is the hunter. Not a lion or wolf, but an assassin; she steps in and becomes the shadows; her neck is a spear gun, flaring, darting, incisive. A starter pistol, an instant reaction. The stickleback’s back is snapped back; then broken, swallowed, gone.

coppi_fotorDisturbed; longnix is unruly, comical. The take-off strained; loping, curving, sagging; struggling to make altitude before at last she is away, wings spreading and eventual grace. Built for stillness or flight; the rest, awkward.

Unawares, she transmutes into a champion cyclist; “il campionissimo”; thin limbed and lithe, knees knocking, walking like a baby giraffe or foal – best when still; then on the bike, the longnix stands, unfurls, opens up, wings spreading, takes off. Built for stillness or for flight, the rest, awkward.