The Little Bird off Slea Head (1)

Posted on March 18, 2010

Photo: “Rough Sea ” by Michelle1973

The Little Bird off Slea Head

(written over a Christmas break in 1982, during a howling gale; I was alone, in an isolated, rain sodden cottage up on a steep cliff of Slea Head, County Kerry, Ireland; reading and writing poetry, and drinking in the timelessness of Old Ireland; from my window I could see,feel,and hear the waves I described; and the long struggle of one little bird… A metaphor for all that is noble in us, for all the longing that struggles to express itself, despite a rampantly materialistic, cold, and cynical society, in which ‘dog eats dog’ is the prevailing rule, and where the feeling folk are regarded as weak and naive, and are usually trodden on)

Waves. Hard, ruthless waves. Slamming relentlessly on the jagged, broken rocks of ancient Slea Head. Deadly. Lashed by a pitiless wind. Inhospitable. No shelter.

A little bird…

Tired. Exhausted. Heading for shore. Beaten back by the wind. Trying again. Tired. Dropping close to the hungry waves. Closer and closer. Desperate, feeble wing beats.
Salt, cutting, spray. A roar of distant waves on battered rocks. Undercurrents of violence. An explosive, hate-filled air. The little bird flutters on, despairingly.
A wave, higher than the others. Imminent oblivion. A desperate effort. Yet another narrow escape. Onwards to a distant, mist draped shore line. Yet another wave. And yet another postponement of the seemingly inevitable.

Oh, no! Seagulls…

Mocking, laughing, circling, screeching, fighting, hungry, seagulls. The little bird struggles on.
The shore line is a little closer. A feeble little bird, close to utter exhaustion, clinging to its purpose, refusing to surrender to its fate.
Well-built, sturdy, masters of the sky, seagulls soaring, seagulls milling, seagulls diving into the roaring waves, fighting one another for imaginary morsels of nourishment.
A small, frightened, lonely little bird, who has come from far, battered, windswept, lashed, refusing to be beaten.
A shredded sky. Light. Light, all-seeing light. Tears that glisten, are blown by the wind, swallowed by the sea, uncounted, unnoticed, unheeded, sparkling, real.
Awareness? Perhaps, but then, a dark cloud, rushing across a ragged world, rendering the whole even more bleak, hopeless.

The little bird struggles on…

A shore line with… trees? Shrubs? Shelter? Berries to eat?

Ah! Those seagulls again…

Aggressive. Menacing. Cruel. Strong. Masters of the Sky. Seemingly well-fed. Yet seemingly always hungry. Fighting, always fighting. Screeching in rage as another appears to be first off the mark towards what could possibly be an edible mouthful, drifting, on a polluted, rotten, roaring sea.
Never satisfied…

The shore is coming a little closer. There are definitely some trees there. Perhaps no food, no much needed nourishment, but definitely signs of Life. Perhaps a chance to rest, to recover, to grow stronger. Perhaps even a shore, where, soon, will come a warm, sunny day, which will move a small, happy little bird to a glorious, thrilling, titillating bird song.
Perhaps… a shore… where someone sad will hear an unheard of, never imagined bird song. Someone hurt, unhappy. Who will stop… breathless, straining to hear. A listener who will, perhaps, carefully, surreptitiously, draw closer, to listen, enjoy, grow hopeful again…?

A squall, sudden, more vicious and hard and cold than ever, and the little bird is lost from sight behind a mountainous wave.
An ever-changing, ever-different sky. Uncaring?
I watch, through a rain blasted window pane, on tiptoes, breathless, trying to peer over the wave. Is he…?
But, somehow, the little bird re-appears. Madly, passionately, willing survival. A monumental will in a tiny frame.
The shore is closer. Or is it? Perhaps an illusion caused by hope? Is there a shore? Are there really trees, bushes, berries, sad and lonely people listening for a fragile bird song? So many dangers. So many deaths.
A shudder. A trembling. Feeble, ragged wings.

Can he even sing?

Or will the waves have muted him? Destroyed him. Broken his heart. Bent, twisted, and corroded his spirit…?

Could he ever really sing? Has anyone ever really listened?

Yes. They have. And another wave is cleared. Yes. He can sing. And another wave goes by. And, anyway, he wants to sing. And two more, no, three more waves go by.

But. Fear. A huge wave. Indecision. To go back? Or onwards?

Hands. Warm, caring, loving hands. Hands that cup themselves and reach out. Hands that pulsate with warm, living blood. Hands that might well reach out to lift up a small, exhausted bird from amongst the granite boulders on the shore line. Warm, delicate, feminine hands, that might well love and nurse the little bird back to life.
But. Are not all birds terrified of all hands? Might not this be the ultimate and final shock that would stop a valiant little heart forever? Might the little bird, now lifeless and limp in caring hands, not have survived if left to Nature? Might it not eventually have lifted its head, refreshed by its momentary rest, to flutter further ashore?

And yet another wave…

The little bird continues. Will it reach the shore? Will there be trees? Bushes? Berries? Warm hands? Or people to sing to who will listen gladly?
To what? The cynic laughs. Cruelly.

Dreams, Loneliness and Hope. What are they?
The song of the birds. The thundering melody of the storm tossed sea.
The howl of the cold wind across Ancient Ireland.
The scars… of the writer.

Photo: “Solitary Bird ” by Steveec_2009

And one, small, insignificant, fluttering, forgotten, feeling, beating heart…

Francis Meyrick

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Last edited by Francis Meyrick on November 29, 2014, 4:54 pm

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