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By: Samuel Gould

About The Poem

During the pandemic, I found solace in London’s urban wildlife and green spaces.

Like so many others, I was separated from both my family and my partner, confined to one room in a small flat without a garden. As a Year 6 teacher, I found the experience of online teaching sad and draining: my most at-risk pupils seemed suddenly so unreachable and I could do nothing to help them.

Observing the birds in nearby Stationers Park helped me to feel moments of genuine calm in this time of loneliness and worry.

I felt great admiration for the moorhen fledglings who I was told so rarely survived to maturity and were there, very much surviving. For the woodpecker: so light and yet able to bore its way through the hardest of challenges.

Following their lead, I found that being alone in nature was something altogether different to loneliness. If these tiny feathered things could navigate this world, the painful fragility of life, so could I.

The Poem

I like this neighbourhood
It’s a quiet neighbourhood, a place where
We love our NHS posters went up early
And I never have to worry after dark.

I mean to say, it’s safe
On Sundays, I watch moorhen chicks strung out
Like infants on a school trip-
Remind myself they probably won’t survive
The foxes and the heron
Or whatever lurks upstream.

There are no guarantees.
In the place where the smoke of young men
Drifts up the trees
I watch a woodpecker
And wonder what it takes to bore a hole
Into something so solid?

If their bodies are somehow less
And their deaths more ordinary
Why do the rains sweep in demons
That agitate the moorhen so?
And why the presence of the monster on the banks
So ominous
If it’s just a crow?

I think of all the birds-
What does it take to bore a hole
Into something so solid
And be so fragile in this world?


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