Caught at the airport

bird understand

Image at


Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport

so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird

trapped in the terminal      all the people

ignoring it       because they do not know

what to do with it       except to leave it alone

until it scares itself to death


it makes you terribly terribly sad


You wish you could take the bird outside

and set it free or       (failing that)

call a bird-understander

to come help the bird


All you can do is notice the bird

and feel for the bird       and write

to tell me how language feels

impossibly useless


but you are wrong


You are a bird-understander

better than I could ever be

who make so many noises

and call them song


These are your own words

your way of noticing

and saying plainly

of not turning away

from hurt


you have offered them

to me       I am only

giving them back


if only I could show you

how very useless

they are not

by Craig Arnold

Terminal birds

mural sf airport



Caught in flight

 (Flightpathproject visits Tasmania, August 2014)

‘Stone walls do not a prison make/Nor iron bars a cage…’ (from To Althea, from Prison, by Richard Lovelace, 1642)


In Tasmania, in the 1830s, dogs were the most effective way of ensuring the convicts’  incarceration at Port Arthur, blocking the flightpath from the peninsula.

Eagle-eyed dogs guard the Neck

tas dogs 1

Eaglehawk Neck is a narrow isthmus connecting the Tasman Peninsula to mainland Tasmania…Locally known as the Neck, the isthmus itself is around 400 metres long and under 30 metres wide at its narrowest point. It forms a natural gateway to the peninsula that was utilised by the British in 1830s, when a line of dogs was chained to posts across the neck to warn of any convicts attempting to escape the prison at Port Arthur…


tas dogs 2

images courtesy Robyn Walton

Chained dogs, chained men

Different place, same story: Sam Cooke sings Chain Gang

Departures and arrivals

Waving the waders goodbye from downunder:

‘Saturday, 10 May 2014 marks World Migratory Bird Day for 2014…About 5 million shorebirds make a round trip up to the arctic to breed every year. That’s a 30,000 kilometre journey for some.

If you consider that some species of shorebirds weigh less than a chocolate bar, then you are starting to understand just how incredible these birds are…’

waving waders adrian boyle bbo web

Image Broome Bird Observatory/Adrian Boyle

Link and listen to a 30-minute panel conversation from Australia on ABC Radio National:

See also

Meanwhile in the northern hemisphere:


Spring comes little, a little. All April it rains.
The new leaves stick in their fists; new ferns still fiddleheads.
But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child
You shout, ‘The swifts are back!’
Sure enough, bolt nocks bow to carry one sky-scyther
Two hundred miles an hour across fullblown windfields.
Swereee swereee. Another. And another.
It’s the cut air falling in shrieks on our chimneys and roofs.
The next day, a fleet of high crosses cruises in ether.
These are the air pilgrims, pilots of air rivers.
But a shift of wing, and they’re earth-skimmers, daggers
Skilful in guiding the throw of themselves away from themselves.
Quick flutter, a scimitar upsweep, out of danger of touch, for
Earth is forbidden to them, water’s forbidden to them,
All air and fire, little owlish ascetics, they outfly storms,
They rush to the pillars of altitude, the thermal fountains.
Here is a legend of swifts, a parable —
When the Great Raven bent over earth to create the birds,
The swifts were ungrateful. They were small muddy things
Like shoes, with long legs and short wings,
So they took themselves off to the mountains to sulk.
And they stayed there. ‘Well,’ said the Raven, after years of this,
‘I will give you the sky. You can have the whole sky
On condition that you give up rest.’
‘Yes, yes,’ screamed the swifts, ‘We abhor rest.
We detest the filth of growth, the sweat of sleep,
Soft nests in the wet fields, slimehold of worms.
Let us be free, be air!’
So the Raven took their legs and bound them into their bodies.
He bent their wings like boomerangs, honed them like knives.
He streamlined their feathers and stripped them of velvet.
Then he released them, Never to Return

Inscribed on their feet and wings. And so
We have swifts, though in reality, not parables but
Bolts in the world’s need: swift
Swifts, not in punishment, not in ecstasy, simply
Sleepers over oceans in the mill of the world’s breathing.
The grace to say they live in another firmament.
A way to say the miracle will not occur,
And watch the miracle.

by Anne Stevenson

(Apologies, there’s a glitch in formatting – there should be a line-break every fourth line.)
To read this and other Anne Stevenson poems see

Common-Swift alamy

 Image: Alamy

For another swift story see

Swifts over the Valley

Swifts over the Valley

Image of Andy Jarrett’s sculpture by Mark Cocker for The Guardian