He understands the language of birdsong.

He knows each fluted warning
Is a territorial border
Each hopped perch
An outpost invisible but audible.

When sparrows chirp
They are singing barbed wire
And checkpoints
Mirror shades, boots and
The low-slung rifle.

And because he understands
And is a law-abiding type
He avoids the finches’ tree
Swerves the sparrows’ fortress
Respects all diplomatic niceties
And does not violate airspace.

The approval, the recognition he wants
All unknowing
Will not come.
Either his species is invisible
To the border guards
Or they recognise his imperial right
To come and go unhindered.

We saw him hesitate
Listen and swerve
We saw the distracted unease on his face
Like a mouse
In hawk-shadow.

© Norman Lamont 2004

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