Login   Sign Up 



by James Graham 

Posted: 18 October 2004
Word Count: 153

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Every day, if I disturb
the soil at all, he follows me
and gleans. He swallows
everything that moves.

I tossed him two short worms.
He didn't flinch (him, flinch?
a finch would flinch, not him)
but deftly tweezered them,

then bounded nearly up to me,
fanned and jiggled his folded wings,
and cocked a look at me
with his starboard eye.

I wonder why - when the crowd
around the peanut feeder
spring instantly at my slightest
twitch, and catapult themselves

off into trackless wilderness -
why he, this pair of cold, fresh
gift-worms writhing in his beak,
comes up to me in six or seven

little long-jumps? I know it's not
a thank-you, and I'm glad he has
no inkling of charity. I'd rather think
he is accustomed, bold, in all

his dealings with all flesh;
that, perfect connoisseur, he has
evaluated and rejected me
as being too much to swallow.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

fireweed at 09:48 on 19 October 2004  Report this post
James, this is a charming, intriguing poem. I don't know why but the setting reminds me of Stanley Spencer's painting of the scarecrow. It has the same sublimity of a natural setting, with the suggestion of human presence but muted, as the human presence in your poem is.

There are so many evocative lines:

"catapult themselves /off into trackless wilderness"

Even the simplicity of the opening lines, open up the poem to deeper layers of meaning: "Every day if I disturb/the soil at all.."
I instantly thought of newly ploughed fields as well as gardens; tilling the soil being a universal timeless activity.

I also like the way you have sketched in the relationship between man and the natural world " Peanut feeder" and "starboard eye" suggesting a wilderness still to be explored. You don't anthropomorphise the blackbird either " I'm glad he has/ no inkling of charity". The two worlds may be complementary but are distinct.

The humour at the end is the perfect touch.

This poem has the visual power of a painting for me; a scene I want to return to.


poemsgalore at 18:19 on 19 October 2004  Report this post
A lovely piece James, the descriptions you have written make wonderful pictures in my imagination.

joanie at 22:44 on 19 October 2004  Report this post
James, this is beautiful. I really felt myself smiling as I read

that, perfect connoisseur, he has
evaluated and rejected me
as being too much to swallow.

I love the idea that he is superior. I just felt that we (humans)are such small parts of creation and yet we think we are so superior! What a wonderful thought that the blackbird would reject us!

He tweezered them - excellent.

A wonderful poem about a perfect moment in nature which would be overlooked by most people, sadly.

I loved it.


Ticonderoga at 14:52 on 21 October 2004  Report this post
Tender, humorous and beautifully observed; John Clare will be singing in his grave!



laurafraser at 09:49 on 22 October 2004  Report this post
love the last two lines
humour entwined with humility and love for nature are the strands that make this poem
the second stanza is wry and for a moment takes the poem in a different direction that changes 9for me0 the whole style of the poem as it gives the whole poem a touch of orginality
i enjoyed this a lot

James Graham at 20:04 on 22 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks to everyone for positive comments. Anna, the poem was partly, I suppose, an exercise in not anthropomorphising animals - something I'm normally very inclined to do. I'm glad too that you see the human presence in it as muted. Joanie, your comment confirms this. I was told a long time ago by an editor that my writing was too 'private' - i.e. self-centred - and have been trying ever since to move away from that. That doesn't mean no longer writing about personal experience, of course, but it does mean trying to communicate that experience in ways that will register with readers. Poemsgalore, your response tells me that I may have succeeded.

Laura - 'humour, humility, love of nature'. Thank you for that. With appropriate humility I have to say that, of these three qualities, love of nature is the one I'm sure I do have!

Mike - John Clare singing in his grave - what a wonderful idea! Poor man, he didn't have much to sing about in life.

Best regards all


miffle at 19:35 on 23 October 2004  Report this post
A cocky bird indeed and I love the humour of the last line: what a put down :-) A hoppy feel partly I think created by lots of punctuation. 'Accustomed' is exactly it! I have about 8 sparrows that use my bird feeder and can get so close to them now I can almost touch them... Lucky it's up high, away from the cat! Will come back to this poem. Nikki

engldolph at 19:25 on 02 November 2004  Report this post
Hi James,

Simplicity of a garden on a cold autumn day
Tight construction; like the efficient confident hop of the blackbird

The poem seems to be carried forward through being packed with movements: – fanning, jiggling, tweezering, bounding, hopping, catapulting

Nature as equal … continues your off-beat approach to animals (remembered in your earlier poem; Sloth)… your dislike of anthopomorphisizing , animals in the position of accepting charity gifts .. clearly the blackbird is superior…. And has a dignity..

Full of humour and musicality too:

a finch would flinch,
the crowd….catapults
starboard eye (which brought to me an image of a cagey old sailor..wasn’t quite sure how to nautical imagery made its way into our garden..but )

and the last line where he assesses and rejects you as

too much to swallow..

It was the “I’d rather think” that started me thinking more about the writer than the bird.. or writer as blackbird.. last line that made me think of the writer’s subtle reference to humans as sometimes: too much to swallow.


James Graham at 19:20 on 03 November 2004  Report this post
Mike, glad you enjoyed the poem. 'Starboard' is slightly odd in the context, but maybe it just about earns its place in the poem through connotations of observing, keeping watch. As on a ship, there's something more focussed about the watching. Besides, 'starboard eye' has a better rhythm than 'right eye'. (I've just had to look up a dictionary because I can never remember whether starboard is right or left.)


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .