A big pastime for old men in Hong Kong is keeping songbirds. There’s a large garden in Kowloon, where many go to feed birds in return for songs. I wrote this poem about that garden when I visited it in 2001.
The poem was first published in Poetry File by the Belmont Arts Centre, for teaching in Secondary Schools in Shropshire. I’m posting it today because it’s National Poetry Day.
Isn’t it great we have a day to celebrate poetry!?
Bird Garden, Hong Kong features in my poetry book, Up in the Air:
This poem was written during a time when I did a lot of volunteering for wildlife trusts and other environmental groups. Amongst other things, I learned how to build a drystone wall, coppice woodland, and lay hedges, in some beautiful parts of the country. There was always something magical about being outside, working with a group of like-minded people, whatever the weather.
A man, a man I could have loved starts to shade, to shade the morning mist.
He is beating stakes, stakes into the clay forcing them past stones, stones and steady roots, the things weak within the earth and the things that hate to move.
As I approach he takes his shape assuredly from the frail and wet white air, a seamster weaving hazel whips through the hedge, outwitting the final challenge of scratch and rip.
In defeat the hawthorn rests its useless claws uneasily against itself, uncertain how to act. Then feels the sap rise, rise again in its veins, and knows that it is elect.
Hedgelayer features in my poetry collection Up in the Air, available here: