NaPoWriMo 2.20: Sparse


Caught up! Here’s my take on the shell name, ‘The Sparse Dove’…This one was rather fun to write.




I realise there’s a lot riding

on these delicate feathers,

but what few of you get

 – well, those few that are left –

is how hard it is to remain

this pure, white and pristine

during a global apocalypse.


It’s quite a few furlongs

across the flotsam and jetsam

of what you fondly thought of

as civilisation. (That’s not to mention

those without arks, without wings

this untainted, who floated

a surprising distance.)


There it is, the biggest bit of the buoyant

detritus of sin. No idea where to begin

their journey without destination.

And I’m meant to saunter over

on these tattered scroll wings

to deposit what feels to me

like a while bloody tree.

Just so that you know

you’ve got somewhere to go?


Well it’s that, or my nest.

And that’s close. So close.

Just a light breeze away

in one of the groves.

And they’re quiet. Quite silent,

but for the coo-ing of neighbours,

an occasional flurry of lambs.


No people here. No bickering.

No predators, or preying.

Just us prey. It’d be very easy

to stay. Avoid that murky water.


It’s a very long way over there.

A very long way. 

The Proper Science Behind “The Angry Birds”

How lovely: a fellow science and poetry blogger (but one who writes about the science behind poetry, rather than poetry based on science) has written a piece which references my poem ‘The Angry Birds’.

You can read Jessie Rack’s post, explaining (with proper scientific rigour) the true extent of wild bird’s plight, here.

It’s great that there is such a synergy between our bloggings – I love scientific ideas and writing about them and Jessie loves poetry and unpacking the science therein.

Such symmetry! The internet can be a lovely place, can’t it?

Falcons ‘rapidly evolved hunter skill’

Falcons ‘rapidly evolved hunter skill’

I love raptors – wrote a poem last year about meeting a falconer (and discussing the falcons’ sometimes-deadly speed) at Warwick Castle, you can read it here.

It turns out that missile skull of theirs, as well as other of their hunting perfection, evolved in a relatively-short period of time, in relative terms. They hurtle through evolution, as well as through the air, it seems…

One day I shall don the gauntlet myself and train a falcon…one day…

The Angry Birds

Part of an excellent comic strip on cat killers from: – go on their website and buy their stuff!  (There – hopefully now he won’t mind my borrowing the picture and linking to the site…)


Last week, I read this story about just how many birds and other small mammals our domestic cat friends (or fiends) actually kill…And the answer is a LOT of small birds and mammals: in the USA, “between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals annually”. Wow.

Now I make no secret of the fact I’ve always had a patchy relationship with domestic cats, even though I had them in the family home growing up. There’s just something I don’t trust about a lot of cats. Which is not to say I don’t meet a cat sometimes I get on with – but I’m not of the mindset of a lot of cat-owners and cat-lovers who see them as these charmingly-aloof and ever-so-‘sassy’ little characters. To me, they usually seem just plain rude-aloof and scheming, not sassy. Not all cats. But yes, for me – most cats. It’s not personal, cats – it’s general.

I realise I’ll probably get ‘trolled’ for expressing my ambivalence about cats, but so be it. I’m a dog person. There we are. (And yes, I know dogs have been used to hunt for millennia.) So perhaps this story played into my feeling that cats are up to something – which is mostly irrational on my part (see dog comment). But it’s not irrational to be concerned about the amount of wildlife they’re killing.

As is my first-person fashion, I wrote a piece from the birds’ perspective. And, being as it’s something of a cultural phenomenon (have you seen the amount of kids wearing Angry Birds hats?), the title references a popular app-game – adding a definite article to avoid any pesky (c)opyright issues. Hopefully? Surely?

Poetry from apps – how postmodern. Po-app-ry. Said game seems to involve hurling bird-heads (or weirdly-spherical birds) at platforms in order to destroy them. This – call me macabre (I call myself macabre) – reminded me of those little ‘gifts’ cats seem to leave on doorsteps and hence informed some of the poem. Once, a cat of ours left a blue-tit head, facing the door, the right way up and in the centre of the doormat. Aww, a….gift?


The Angry Birds


Dusk. The swish of the tear

in the door. Silence. The sky a cage

of black-blue branches. Breathing.


A darkness thickens our feathers,

sticks to the points of our beaks.

We petrify. By the table of bait,

it waits. A first screech flickers

life into the street-lights. Then –

reflected on narrow green eyes –

a manicured lawn of limbs.


The baby ape takes in tiger cubs.

We watch you through the glass,

face alight, twiddling your thumbs.

Playing games in the night,

with our heads.


From up here, we look down on

the pastel television-picture within:

Kitty returns, is named, tickled under the chin;

delicately purrs at an opening tin.


And you, unwitting napkin,

with blood all over

your hunter’s hands.



And the news story by which the poem was inspired:


228mph or, The Falconer

Here’s a poem I wrote for a Teach First poetry slam we held yesterday – mine didn’t end up being performed (although the poem which did was very good) – so I thought it might be nice to blog it instead…


Two-Hundred and Twenty-Eight Miles an Hour, or

The Falconer


This, he says to his leathery arm, is only a baby.

Perched and alert, the crystalline bird’s eyes

stare through us – all fire and ice. He strokes its beak.

‘What can be the big speed?’ Asks a fledgling English-speaker.


He says:

Two-hundred and twenty-eight miles an hour

they dive. The speed of F-1, of guzzling horse-power:

Tiny ragged rockets, missile-beaked,

Vertical talons of glycerine light.


But two-hundred and twenty-eight miles an hour, he says,

Misjudged, and wings on fences rip.

Two-hundred and twenty-eight miles an hour, he says,

Mis-timed, and bright claws bruise to blue.

Two hundred and twenty-eight miles an hour, he says,

These pigeon-bomb airy stealth fighters

Can self-destruct slice on telephone wires.


The falconer looks at the horizon, the sky, the past,

and says: It’s never the superstars which last.