18 December 2016

The Mark of Love

He sits in my bleak cold garden
perched lordly on the old oak table.
He does not move but stares unblinking,
not asking but demanding more
of the flame raisins he has found
in the cracked old Japanese bowl.

I watch him as he cocks his head
turning from one side to the other,
the dark eyes intelligent and sharp
reminding me of the rare talents
and avian persistence lodged
in this small being of brown and red.

“I am the little bird” he says,
“who, come the Spring, pours out his song
like a nightingale in the hedgerow
singing beneath the silver moon,
rich notes ringing through the warm night
to summon my love back to our nest.

“But once I flew into a cold stable
where a swaddled new born baby lay.
Ox and donkey slept soundly there, 
while the baby shivered in his bed
and his mother stretched out her soft hand
to caress my brown feathered coat.

‘Bird’ she said, ‘can you rebuild the fire?
For the night is icy and I fear
for my baby so helpless and so young.’
I flapped my wings like small bellows
and sang to her until the flames
leaped like fiery darts into the sky

“Consumed with a rare love for the child,
too close I went to the roaring fire
and the dull brown feathers of my coat
smouldered blood red bright in the darkness.
But the boy smiled in a deep sleep
and his mother offered me her thanks.

“She looked tenderly at my burned
feathers, and blessed me with a kiss
to set as a seal upon my heart.
I have fought for my territory,
and beak stabbed my feathered brothers
but still I carry the Lady’s mark of love.”

I remember now his constant harrying 
of the hungry Blue Tits, but how
can I resist those pleading eyes?
So I fill up the old bowl with fruit.
and, as he sits beside me to take it,
‘God bless you my little Red Breast’ I pray.

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