The Book of British Birds
I don’t know the names of many birds—
the ones caught out by an edge of wind
and flicked off the currents like rain,
or the ones that twitch when they glide,
or the one we follow thinking it’s a hawk
that turns out to be a crow,
or the one that turns into a kite
the moment we we pull over and stand
by the side of the road—
hands cupped above our eyes
as if we’re looking for someone lost at sea,
or the one that hangs above us now,
that’s led us, blind, to the only field
on the moor without a gap in its dry-stone wall,
the one we seem to be nudging further away
each time we think we’re getting close
as if we are magnets’ two opposite poles.
But when you died and we finally got round
to clearing out your house, along with the steamer,
the armchair, the green Goretext jacket
I almost brought back, was this book
that stands out on our shelf now—
like that kid at school who suddenly grew too tall.
In teaching we call them tier-three words—
words specific to a subject, technical
terms like evaporation and disintegration
but also words like shadow and swan.
Tier-one words are those you recognise on site
like clock or table or train or, today,
words like church or coffin or road.
We’re early and they’re yet to dress
the city and the paint has run on the hills
so the greens and browns are bled together,
and the sea is missing its kinks
and everything is a fraction too dark
and the air is either still or a hurricane—
there’s no calm breeze, no light rain.
Tom Weir‘s poetry has been Highly Commended in The National Poetry Competition and the Forward Prize. He was one of the inaugural winners of the Templar IOTA Shots competition with his pamphlet The Outsider and his first full collection All that Falling was brought out in 2015.