“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”


DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)


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31 March 2011

THE ORNITHOLOGIST - A VINTAGE EULOGY

BLONDIE WITH FIZZ, THE LAST OF HER OFFSPRING


The Ornithologist

Blondie 29/9/87 - 11/3/11



“You won’t get much conversation outa this girl,”

Peter said,
backing the old blonde mare from her float.

“She’s not much of a talker.”


They’d been apart for twenty two years

this stately cutter and her man.
He’d sold her as a filly
and sensibly ran off buccaneering,
only to discover he missed her, half a lifetime later,
after his wife left.


I told him we’d see,
and when he’d gone I walked to her in the gloaming,

talking as I do to humans.

After my hullo we swapped breath,

my tobacco Shiraz for her sweet malt

and quietly she showed me the birds,

tilting the head to that Raven,

nodding to the Hooded Plovers yonder,

lifting the great chin to the Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos -
awarding them one mighty eye,
then the other,

then both.


Pigeon, Red Rump Parrot and Magpie she taught me that twilight,

following each lesson with a long questioning stare,
just to ensure I was there.

The hoot of the Boobook Owl closed our class,

when she turned content and wandered in silence to the trees.


“Blondie’s an ornithologist,”

I told Peter in the morning,

explaining the evening’s affair.


“That’s funny,” he said,
after a disbelieving pause.

“As a foal she watched ants all day.”


Blondie broke down last night,

the grave sucking life from one exhausted leg,

leading Peter from the midnight to say

“You’re gonna lose your birdwatching mate in the morning.

I’ve just given her a good big feed.”


By the vibe outside I know the deed is done:

earth dug open somewhere I won’t go,

the great slump complete,

the last huge sigh of horse,

the red gape healed with shovel and tractor.

The vet has put his stuff away,

Blondie is back with her ants,

and the first grapes of vintage come through on an eager truck.


Philip White

11 Mar 11

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5 comments:

MeredithJean said...

I've read this tribute twice, and am further moved the second time. Moved to tears. I'm all caught up in the basic trust and respect between creatures who don't need to eat each other to survive. And how transitory the human concept of love and friendship can be by comparison.

YouKnowWho said...

Whitey, that makes me cry every time. You should come and meet my old timer one day. He's 27 and showing few signs of slowing down. But he's not immortal (as far as I know!) I hope one day he lays down for a nice sleep in the sun and takes his last great gasp in peace.

Soni Zata said...

Tghs looks like its a metaphot for all the grapes that came in on all the trucks

Kaya said...

What a beautiful, tender tribute to Blondie. Philip that made my heart ache.

Trademark Attorney said...

I like how you've incorporated dialogue into this poem, it gave it a real sense of atmosphere.