For years we searched together for birds.
While we were looking, the forge started inside you.
Out flew the first, a Firecrest, flick of your white-hot tongue
painting the stripe on its head.
I thought it a wish fulfilled.
Others fluttered in our garden, long in their absence,
now thronging. Did you know where they were coming from?
Yellowhammer, Willow Tit, Coal Tit, Robin and Wren.
Pleased, I fed them, unaware of the forge blaze dwindling you,
recasting you, until rooted by the hearth’s fury you stilled
to contain its molten metal. Now we knew its power —
not the benign factory I teased you about
churning out the shadow on your jaw, minutes after you shaved,
growing your hair as if never cut. Then you were gone.
I looked for you and saw swallows overhead.
At midnight, the call of the first Owl I ever heard,
another swept in front of me driving home at dusk.
A pair of Oyster Catchers made their nest on the moors,
shrieking vows from night until noon.
What brought them in so far from the coast?
The forge was spent, business done, debts settled one way or another.
Friends, foes, old loves and me all the same to you now.
You’d turned inside out, shaking out the loose change
of so many wings and tails.
Barsa Ray reads The Forge of Birds