what the birds know

balanced on the wrestle and tug of the wind

they study the spanless space of the Severn

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knowing – as we will never know – this place

where the land ends, where the footholds loosen

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feeling that oily mud-grey glide, sensing

that treachery which hides a deeper pull, a drowning

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smelling the distant shock of salt and the dank of

knotted things decaying at the river’s edge

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hearing the Severn-silence – that sound which is nothing more

than the blur of the wind

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seeing how its silver spread pulls the land lopsided

lowers the sky, turns to smallness the trinkets of men

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as they fringe the fragile banks -quays, power stations

pylons, looping bridges, trees, even the blind toy train

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bumbling along its perilous shelf – all slope and cling

drawn towards those eel-backed, mud flats

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all this the birds see and so worship the will of the Severn

pay tribute to this indifferent god

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aware how small, how short the time

but cheerful in their insignificance

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as through the years they watch the river work

slow and steady, infinitely sure, reclaiming

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its space and – undeceived – they scream

their strangled warnings into deafness

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deep as the sky