“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)





07 February 2012



The Ornithologist

“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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