Jackdaws by D.J. Peel (Takenoko, U.K.)
To call jackdaws social birds is, at times, surely the grossest of inaccuracies. As I lie now in my bed, 8:00am on an early summer Sunday morning, I feel them to be the most anti-social of all the feathered visitors to my garden. From the dark density of a nearby yew tree comes the incessant racket of clacks and clatterings as if all the world’s fishwives with their sharp tongues and knives were bantering and berating each other whilst butchering the fish. In the brief silence that follows an angry neighbour’s loud SHUT UP and clapping of hands, one almost hears them whispering What was that?… before they carry on; until, like sooty tatters from a suddenly erupting bonfire, they burst into the air to flaunt their aerobatic skills. Lang-lauf skiers of the sky, they let themselves be lifted almost out of sight to sweep back down again with outstretched wings. And now they swirl around in interchanging groups, until in ones and twos, they take their leave; one straggler flapping furiously to catch up, leaving an empty sky and silence.
Often I’ve watched them swagger across the ridge tiles of neighbours’ houses to join in preening and quiet conversations; or perching silhouette-like on a comfortable television aerial, before hurtling off as if on some forgotten appointment. And sometimes, one has seemed to stalk across to another as if to say Race you to that tree and back. But these last few months, I have noticed one pair taking increasing interest in a particular chimney pot, titling head-down to peer within, sometimes disappearing inside for lengthy periods. Doubtless, they had their nest inside; though how one adult and three or four nestlings moved safely around in the sooty darkness of such a confined space defies imagination. I guess, though I never recognised them, today has been the great fledgling coming out day when offspring finally flew the nest, and adults, free at last from parental duties, have had one last big get-together before flying off on a well-earned break.
Days later, they’re back in their yew tree, noisily exchanging all the latest news.
. how I’d love to know / their language, their wind-torn flight -/ those pesky jackdaws
AN (COTTAGE) PRIZE:
The Blue Jacaranda by Kala Ramesh (India)
waiting for a call
…. that never came . . .
new year’s eve
I was your maid. You remember me?
The one who used to tie your shoelaces and make the chapathis and that potato curry for you. Pack your lunch and escort you to the bus stop.
The school bus would come to our street corner somewhere around 8 am daily.
Your smile, as you wave goodbye, asking me to be there waiting when you get home in the evening.
You had a loud voice.
In case you feel like seeing me, do come over. I stay at The Jacaranda Old-age Ashram. No 18, Queen’s Lane, Pune-411009.
Ask for Shalini bai.
Everybody here knows me well and they know you too. I keep talking about you to all the inmates. I posted a similar card to you a year back, but I’m thinking it didn’t reach you …
restless night . . .
turning and tossing
as the ache sinks deeper
AN (COTTAGE) PRIZE:
Crime and Punishment by Cara Holman (U.S.A.)
For reasons best known to her, my nursery school teacher has placed me on top of the upright piano because I refused to sing “I’m a Little Teapot” with the rest of the class. Actually, it wasn’t so much that I refused—I just wasn’t singing when Mrs. K. suddenly swept me up and placed me here, with my stocking feet dangling precariously over the edge of the piano, to reflect on my wrongdoings. I know Mom will straighten this all out when she comes to pick me up this afternoon, but right now, all I can think about is, it’s a long way down, if I should jump or fall.
…………. everywhere I look
AN (COTTAGE) PRIZE:
Yeh Go I by James Norton (Ireland)
…………. The slow boy
…………. gazing skyward
…………. hears it first
I put down the map and listen with him, hear nothing but the trucks and cars roaring past. He stands quite still, looking at me. “You’re sure?” “Yeh go I”. OK. A mile or so off the motorway, sure enough we find it, hidden in the hills.
Now the noise is deafening. Boy racers screech around the big circuit in souped-up roadsters. We watch for a while. Cows graze the hillsides undisturbed. Clouds in a blue sky sail out to sea.
Then to the figure-8 go-kart track. Around and around he goes at a sedate pace while I watch. Tiring of it, I go back to the van for a snooze, leaving the attendant to keep watch.
“Good?”. He nods, and we’re several miles away when I notice he’s holding his hand awkwardly. A nasty burn, blistering. He gazes stoically out the window. I can get no explanation out of him. Afraid I won’t take him again.
The village pharmacist. Cool-gel and a dressing, painkillers. No, he won’t take any payment.
……… Healing hands
…………….. where the name itself is balm
Drive on to the seaside. He loves the merries. Yeh go we.