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October 2013, vol 9, no 3

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Claire Everett


pollen grains
on a willow pattern plate . . .
last summer

As if I've been whisked away to a miniature Moroccan bazaar, or a master weaver of fine wicker ware just placed it in my cupped hands: this nest of moss and grass, lined with dead leaves, feathers, and here and there, a swatch of dryer-lint, a snippet of brightly-coloured yarn. From the beginning, when she made her first exploratory taps and toyed with the camera wires to make sure they posed no threat, I shared her vision, to the extent I could; when her mate arrived, I couldn't see the way the plumage on his crown reflected ultraviolet light, but I knew that she would have chosen him above all others, because she found his crest the most pleasing to the eye. Had I witnessed, at close-hand, their garden courtship, I would have been privy to his posturing, the bristling of his nape feathers, though she alone would catch that one anointing ray that singled him out as her Prince Charming.

And so, she came with her soft-furnishings, garnered from our scarified lawn. She arranged, rearranged, titivated, threw her whole body into it, perfected the shape by fanning her wings. Then she popped out for a few more home comforts: a neighbour's hair-trimmings, a tuft of coconut matting, before deciding it was high time she settled in.

Tsee-tsee-tsu-hu-hu-hu-hu! Looking like a bandit with his black eye-stripes, the male would appear, bearing gifts: one, two, three feathers to ornament the nest. He was worth a thousand times his weight in plump green caterpillars. She preened her breast, plucked a brood patch. She'd chosen well. At last, she started to lay just as the eastern horizon began to blush and around the same time for the next nine days, another smooth, white, red-freckled egg, snuggled up to its siblings to dream, perhaps, of wings. Steadfast, the male waited on her, did his best to satisfy her cravings: a beetle from a crevice; an aphid from a rose; a peck of putty from the window-seal . . . something about the taste of linseed oil . . .

For now, her hopes stayed in one place; they neither cheeped nor whimpered, and warmth alone would keep them alive. The days didn't pass by as a blur of yellow gapes, the widest of which would receive the choicest grub. They didn't tumble over each other, with needs that had to be met, space that demanded to be filled.

For now, there was no need to churr at the cat's shadow or sound the seet-seet beneath the hawk's stoop.

the length of gossamer . . .
Freshers' Week

Note: Blue tit: Cyanistes caeruleus