Cows Looking Out to Fastnet Rock

To the very edge, they pit
body strength and camouflage
against the storm unpicking the seams
of the coast, undermining the cliffs
the ludicrous fence-posts and wire
that keep them confined to genealogies
worked to prescription, Fastnet
visible then lost in cloud and spray,
the light not flashing though cows
send warnings out to build
a charge as formidable
as epics of land and sea,
namings and the terrible
holiness of erosion,
their weight a parody
of the elegant seabird
still in the storm, turning
cliff into flesh, wondering
what the sea will throw
up next.

Mute Swans of Ballyrisode

Where tombs watch over the bay
And the bay is watched over
By tombs of hill-stone and moss,
The milky-green sea cuffing

Seawalls and road draped in sea-
Weed thrown up by moon and gales,
Mute swans manage the tidal
Repulse that strands boats and shells.

A vagrant little egret
Pathfinding onto the Head,
Fixed now in a marsh as sharp
Rain reprises birds and chart;

Mute swans – two adults and young –
Navigate complex rituals
To accommodate rapid
Change – flesh, feather, scale and bone.

And we’re there, watching ourselves
Watching quietly the swans hook
Reflections of the sacred,
Aves of food-grade plastics.

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.