Red kites, native to Turkey, Morocco, and parts of Europe, were declared ‘vermin’ by the English crown and hunted nearly to extinction. They were successfully reintroduced to the UK in 1989.
No red kites over the field this morning.
However hard I looked, I could not find
A single cresting pair, their high crosses
Invisible – as if unpitched from the grass.
No dry swoop, no sounding. No clatter from
Morning’s fed sparrows rising in alarm,
No hare’s carcass eaten behind our wall,
Nothing astir. No courting on the fell
In curious patterns, no stumbling display
Of swift shadows bending above the Wye.
No haunt. No song. Only the heaven’s blue
Graceless fire, and then as a ghost pursued
Across a moor, the hunting-horn’s burly
————————-crucify, crucify, crucify.
The sum of his possessions when
We took him: mortar, pestle. An
Inkwell, dry. Fine dye, coins to weigh
Leaves of grammar, a pillow for
The wrist. Robes, bound in crisp paper.
Where he towelled his feet after
Rain, a stool, chiselled to a squat.
Outside the door a low stair led
Under the alley where they mourned
Their lost seamstress and her husband
To a musty basement, and here
We found last year’s olives in jars,
A little fruit wine, incense like
A talisman. Half of these we took
As gifts to the infirmary,
Leaving the rest for when the time came
To close the accounts, sell the house
With its furnishings complete. Those
Who moved in afterwards, we found,
Had all the right convictions.
Haggai of Oxford, a Christian Deacon and student of Hebrew, was burnt alive in 1222 after embracing the Jewish faith ‘for the love of a Jewess’. – The Dunstable Annals
Theophilus Kwek was born in Singapore and has published three collections of poetry, most recently Giving Ground (Ethos Books, 2016). He won the Jane Martin Prize in 2015 and the New Poets’ Prize in 2016, and has been published in The North, Southword, The Interpreter’s House, Eastlit, and other journals. He works at The Oxford Writers’ House and Asymptote, the journal of world literature.