Ports, Past and Present

Jon Gower: Urban Geese

With metronome beats they wing in,
The Brent geese of Dublin Bay,
Racking up the air miles
Veering over Arctic Canada,
Slicing across Iceland,
Gathering groups from Greenland
To graze all winter
On the greens of the city.

There they are, intent as lawn mowers
At the junction of Alfie Byrne
And Clontarf Roads
Birds of the Bay come inland.

Branta bernicla, to give the Latin name,
Sauntering the Santry banks
As they do the northern tundra,
Where foxes pelts run white, not red
Like the traffic lights
At Doyle’s Corner.

Ineffably beautiful Brents
Plump as turkeys outside
Chanel college in Coolock
Notable from their pale bellies, the Irish kind
Not the dark ones that visit British shores.

There they go, lifting up from
The night-time roosts at Bull Island
Veering to disperse:
Heading for Macauley Park, near the bus stop.

Roaming the new estates at Red Arches Avenue
Hoovering the turf at Foxfield Green
But giving the AstroTurf of Donnybrook,
Short shrift, leaving it to the rugby studs,
Choosing, rather, to give
A short back and sides
To park land at Malahide
With the blunt razors of their bills.

For garden birds, we build bird tables
Put out niger seeds to charm the goldfinch
Place peanuts in nets to ensnare siskins
Spread out old apples for blackbirds
To hole precisely
With the yellow drills of their beaks.

So, too in Dublin Port, where spills of soya meal
And messes of maize where the cranes unload
Delight the geese
That gather for alfresco dining
At the Alexandra Basin
Plumping, plumping
As they graze in head-down sweeps.

Then, come the lengthening days
The inner clock triggers
A cue for long-haul flight
To Greenland’s western edge,

To Eqalungmiut Nunât, Land of the Fisherfolk
On the chill rim of the Ice Sheet
And the lichen- encrusted land,
At Kûp Akua, ‘where the waters meet or mix.’ 

The skeins fan the skies
Like fronds of eel grass,
Adrift in all that air
Resolve and determined purpose

In each beat of a wing.

Gaining height now

Still gaining.

May 2021

Interreg programme logos.

Noddir gan Gronfa Datblygu Rhanbarthol Ewrop trwy Raglen Iwerddon Cymru.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme.

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