Last Winter I decided to create a community art project inspired by birds and flight.
The idea had been percolating for a while, and the open call for art and writing attracted responses from people in Athlone, Dublin, Germany, Kerry, Limerick, and Sligo.
Some of the writers involved. Thanks to everyone who took part.
After three months of communication and logistics, the collection was exhibited in Listowel. It featured poetry, prose, art, and craft.
In this post you will find a small selection of the works.
Due to website limitations the formatting of some poems is not exactly as the writer arranged originally. I have added some of my photography and art too.
-Kathryn Crowley, February 28th, 2023.
Survival by Fidel Hogan Walsh
In the dark of the rising mist
a low hanging moon winks
in the cold winter sky.
Late of a night,
of whooshing wings —
luminous white feathers take flight.
Prey and predator stalking silence,
stealth, deadly, swooping.
Shattering the quiet,
a soaring triumphant hoot
-nature’s ghostly survivor.
30.4⁰C by James Anthony
The crows have commandeered
the dried-up fountain
vie for supremacy
on the upper tier
harass each other with wings
that block and lock like hoplite shields
find no resolution.
They battle on
above the subtle equilibrium
of the church bell
a call to pray for the drought’s end.
In the basin, other crows
scratch at the glint of coins:
the carrion of wishes.
Winter Hiatus by Doryn Herbst
When winter covered the land
and choked the mountain stream,
a dipper griped hard onto a boulder
with its claws, bent up and down
at the knees, a gymnast’s warm-up
routine. Opened its snow-white throat
to mutiny against the season’s lull,
shatter frozen air with song.
Restored by Kathryn Crowley
It’s no secret
They failed to silence you
Even as you struggled with mud-caked wings
For you were cherished by silver birch
And carried by the wind.
Honeybees sought the song in your throat
When dawn was a hoarse whisper
The sun bestowed its morning dew
And clover willed your healing.
Now earthworms gather to knit a coat
And spiders weave new feathers
Forged by fire
Fed in clay
All conspire to give you strength
To soar as celestial dust.
The Female Robin by Marcella Griffin
Short heavy breaths heave one after the other. A warm tear escapes over my cold shallow cheek. As more weary tears build up, they begin to sting my eyes. Decade old tears I do not want to shed. Distant boat lights become blurred.
The soft rolling fog nudges my hands into my pockets. Knowing I am dissolving into the darkening landscape, as the inky sky slowly vanishes. As silence falls around me, I realise I am not comfortable with hearing my breathing in this dense increasingly blinding space. It amplifies my own existence to myself. Suddenly, this is not what I want.
Nearly a decade has past until finally I could read those words. Words probably typed up by a secretary, clueless of their life changing impact. Who am I without the ruminating, planning, analysing my next move, my sleepless nights, feeling worthless against a crushing system. Now the fight is over, I won, but what am I to do now, what to fill my days with, fill the vacant space in my mind. How do I release the rage, anger, frustration, all my time and years lost to this?
I shiver, the world becoming blacker and greyer. The headland feels as though it has drifted into the middle of the ocean, isolated, bleak and lost. I welcome the sudden hulling noise of a nearby boat. At once I am glad I’m not alone. But, who will understand my grief. My trust in humanity has been broken. Their betrayal cannot be forgiven.
I sense movement. I see a shadow walking on my path. I step forward to force them pass behind me. The steps are rhythmic with each step increasing in sound. I close my eyes wishing them to be gone. The steps slow down to a stop. They stand a little distance from me. They say my name. Hating having to turn my head to engage with them, I grip my anguish tightly. I turn. Seeing their face I clamp my lips to contain an explosion of hurt, weariness no longer willing to stay silent. Muted, my shoulders begin to shake.
Softly I feel their arms enclose around me into a hug. The hardened locks and instilled iron armour crumbles. I give in to their embrace as I feel myself breakdown with exhaustion and the knowing, I don’t know who I am beneath it all. My friend’s warm body melts into the cold I soaked from the chilling night.
The minutes fall into a time warp, my mind jumping, flickering, and crashing from events from the past, possible futures and the now. All the while I am held with meaningful patience with the right supportive strength. The earthly silence fills with the muffled cries I swore I would not shed.
As though reading my mind, in silence, I am gently led to my friends nearby car. She brings me home, and then comes in as she has many times in the past. Soon I was in bed with a hot water bottle. She knows my needs better than myself. She once again stays over. Stepping out of her own life for me as though it was the natural order of things. I know her little bundles of joys are in her home being lovingly cared by their Dad. It’s here she is, just for me!
As my eyes adjust to the morning light, although 6.00am, I decide to rise. Quietly I dress, slip down to the kitchen to make a mug of coffee. Wrapping my hands around the mug absorbing the comfort of its heat, I stare out at the garden. Layering up, I grip my body against the cold air, padding gingerly over to the bench, at the oak tree. Steam rises from my mug, as puffs of clouds escape my mouth. I move my eyes around the garden seeing its neglect, the need of so much tender loving care. My garden looks so dishevelled and withered.
I don’t know how long I have been there before seeing her. Snarly thorny arthritic fingers of briars reach out into the garden and to the sky, a sky not yet fully awake. There amongst the dense section is a female robin. The fluttering of her brown wings gives her away. She has no red breast allowing her to blend into the surroundings. She is so small, fragile in a hostile part of the garden. Surrounded with thorns that can rip at her feathers, puncher her tiny body. Yet she stands there confident, strong, undisturbed by their presence. A small laugh escapes me as I shiver in the sharp cold air; she doesn’t need to layer up like me. She is warm beneath her feathered layers. I am weak compared to her. I feel my wings have been clipped.
I remember my granny telling me a robin in your garden is a sign of joyful and creative times, reminding one of their resilience and adaptability. I don’t feel any of these and anyway this is not a red breast. It was then I remember my grandmother sitting as I am, early morning in her garden. As a child I asked her what she was thinking. Confused at the time by her answers, she said “I am becoming the brown female robin.” I repeated the words to jerk awake why she said that. I have a vague memory of her saying “The female robin keeps a low profile, protecting herself and cares for the nest, eats well, all to care for her chicks.” I had asked her “What do you mean?” I remember her smiling at my young innocent face. She softly said, “There are times when we adults feel tired too. When I feel like that, I like to take guidance from the female robin.” I had asked “how, you have no nest?” I can still hear her chuckle. “My home and my heart are my nests. A female robin builds her nest, using moss and hair to make it comfortable, homely. I have decided to do that too, to make my home and in here homely (She points to her heart). I do things that will make me smile.
I love looking at photographs of you and your mom. It makes me feel so happy and proud. I also enjoy playing music I have not heard in a long time, my kind of music. Then I dance around with the brush.”
“The brush, you dance with the brush?” I say. That image I created of her dancing with the old brush, with many nails to keep the head on made me smile.
Granny continued “I must listen to my heart, (She pointed to her heart) and listen to my feelings. Then I figure out what I need to do that will make me happy. I guess it’s like a happy hibernation.”
I look skywards smiling to Granny, whispering, “I get it now. I get what you meant. Thank you, Granny. It’s my turn to be the female robin, keep a low profile, recover and do my happy hibernation”.
Returning to the kitchen, I light a candle placing it centre table. I sit watching the flickering, dancing beauty of a simple flame. I pray. As my eyes relax my vision becomes unfocused, creating two dancing flames moving in unison. A tear escapes. I feel relief in the knowing Granny is and will always be by my side.
Starlings by Matt Mooney.
Seeking shelter in the hall
Of the hotel of ivied walls
And the door bangs shut
By a sudden stormy gust.
Locked in without a key,
I called out for my liberty
And with a heavy metal one
She came to set me free
In sweet tones of hospitality
And the leaves from the trees
Danced for us in the breeze,
Maybe glad of their release.
‘Hear the starlings’ she said,
Inviting me outside to listen
To them in the ivy up above
And I listened to the twitters
Of the murmur just flown in
From their daring air display-
As if they took a sudden flair
For this corner of the Square.
Photo: David Cousins.
Thanks for visiting.
This is a small sample of what made up an interesting collection. It took a huge amount of time and energy to get this far.
Next I will focus on my own writing and art, which you will be able to see at Tralee library until 2pm March 25th.
If you would like future updates by text or Email, sign up to my mailing list:
‘Lancashire starlings form swirling whale-shaped murmuration’ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-60736370
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