for Martin Lucas 1962-2014
As we cycle further into the Dales, you’re never far from my mind. Three weeks now, and still no word.
Our quiet corner is a world in bloom. Early morning, but already, between scattered showers of skylark song, yellowhammers, with their minds on supper, flit in and out of their doilied hedgerows, lamenting that the cupboard is bare. And here and there, beyond the vaporous hawthorns, from some just-tilled field, a curlew’s bubbling cry.
We swerve to avoid another casualty. Death has no season. Over and again, these hapless ones who are in their element by moonlight or when the sun is alchemist. They should never have been fated to be the ermine for a queen’s stole, the trim of a king’s sleeve. Nor were they meant to be trapped, or baited, to be fair game, a two-a-penny trophy for yet another shooting party, or to hang, like a wrung-out neckerchief, from the poacher’s brace. They should never have crossed the human’s path, let alone its road.
We reach Druids’ Temple, which is no more than a folly, nor was it ever designed to be, but it is beautiful nonetheless. We park the tandem and wander in and out of the stones, taking photographs as we go. But it’s a feather on the grass that draws my eye. It is like so many others in my collection, but how I wish we could strike words like just and ordinary from our vocabulary! Feather by feather, a swan’s wing, flake by flake a drift of snow. And here, resting ever-so-lightly in my palm, such that my own breath might take it, this child of dragonfly and thistledown. Violet here, orange there. A canvas for iridescence. That which finds the oil-sheen in a mantle, makes jeweller’s velvet of a breast, a prism of a throat.
Within minutes of our arrival home, I hear the news.
from the pheasant's tail
Only then, do I remember the feather.
Now I cradle it in my palm, knowing that it is born of that place between presence and absence like the edge of a veil where the light catches, or the hair’s-breadth between flame and thin air.
Note: The haiku was first published in Presence #43, 2010 and was quoted in Martin Lucas’ essay which is archived on the New Zealand Poetry Society’s webpage: http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/martinlucas.