Return of the Red Kite

The Red Kite is a bird of prey which was almost wiped out by landlords with rifles, and then soulless egg collectors. It was saved by some thoughtful people in a campaign against their stupidity. Now it can be seen all over West Yorkshire again. This poem is about the first time I saw one as I walked nearby Harewood.

Carefully she offers control to the currents
as her eye glides up over furrows –
never overcorrecting, she appears
when she means to, clears the barren treetops
and fastens some fur between her beak and the ground.

Her predator’s presence in the city shows
she retains the perfection of ages –
and rats, nested in stubborn woodland patches
sing of her soundings to their children, of days
of sudden pain when scraps and salvage end.

I was deprived of her, by the lords.
Eggs, whose skin could crackle like woodfire
instead were fixed alone, under glass –
as a nobler blood stained the tree-forks.
Their keening night-cry declared the time.

And silence slowly took to the skies while I was born
as the hill-wind began to forget a part of itself.
No longer the slip and slither of air around wing –
only the crow’s desperate gasping and magpie chitter.
I did not know that anything was missing.

Then, one day as we walked amongst the drizzle
along a long drystone wall, I followed her hand
which gestured up. How can it be, that a few dark specks
and their swoopings, complete the sky?
I felt this, and mum smiled to see me smile.

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