I used to walk by our river most days, with a notebook. I don’t know why I fell out of the habit, as it was a good one, but this week, I knew I needed to begin again.
So I walked along the lane, along the quiet creek, towards the bench where I used to sit and write, when, just behind me, my attention was caught by an ungainly black shape moving fast.
Startled, I felt the emotions I had been seeking to keep under the surface.
The experience reminded me of the last line of Seamus Heaney’s wonderful Postscript
“And catch the heart off guard and blow it open ”
Like the white swans in their wild landscape in Heaney’s sonnet, this dark bird on my river was some kind of liberation, revelation.
So I sat down on the bench where I used to sit, and wrote this:
Why is it, this bright morning,
that the sudden sight
of the cormorant
coming to land on the water
takes me unawares,
startles me open?
The tattered black wings,
the rangy sticks of feet,
the head, sharp as a
It lands in a single
fluid act, graceful upon
the slippery shining water,
but for a moment
and then the bird
pierces the brightness
with that fine head