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Spring 2023

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nancy campbell


as if summoned by an augur’s staff the birds came

one blue-black dart overhead and then another

and in the gravel pits, the lake was all light

and the air – and the warm south only a myth

or a memory in the bones of the swallows like

the do-se-do moves they dance with their shadows

dipping then lifting so the echo is always vanishing,

parting and almost meeting – never wholly vanishing

never truly meeting – tracing a line on the lake with a pinion 

flickering through a spring blizzard of insects all invisible

and white bellies turn to the sun, shimmering into birches

then wing skims water again, looping low and sparring

with the abrupt gulls. Grebe in the reeds bustling

and a creak-mouse bouncing among the catkins

and then the cuckoo flew to the highest branch of the bare oak

and fanned its spotted tail and called its first two notes

and one wren chased another down a hidden flight path

silent as military aircraft – only once they were gone

came the wind in my eardrums – any heart would be tender

still lighter its fluttering beat even the very last beat

plucked and laid with the owl’s entrails in such a crucible

NANCY CAMPBELL is a queer Scottish writer, described by the former Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy as ‘a deft, dangerous and dazzling poet writing from the furthest reaches of both history and climate change’. In 2020 she received the Royal Geographical Society Ness Award for environmental writing, including works of non-fiction (The Library of Ice), poetry (Disko Bay) and artist’s books (How to Say ‘I Love You’ in Greenlandic). In 2018 Nancy was appointed the UK’s Canal Laureate by The Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust. Many of the poems written during her two-year laureateship were installed along the waterways where they could be seen projected on wharves at night, stencilled on towpaths, or engraved into fish gates; they are collected in the pamphlet Navigations. Her latest book is a memoir, Thunderstone. INSTAGRAM WEBSITE 

(Image credit: Wing of a Blue Roller, Albrecht Durer, 1512)

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