Lucifer, rising from the mists of dawn,
clings on behind Aurora's binding ties:
the fading crescent of the moon looks down
on damp fields where the snaking river lies.
The newborn sun soon wakes the dragonflies
and the frothing nymphs who jump and spit
upon the buttercups and meadowsweet.
The swallows quit their muddy homes beneath
the eaves of house and barn, breakfasting
on dancing swarms, taken on the wing: high
above the heath they swing on to pastures
new where the day will host life's frantic play,
that bloody corybantic dance of May
that ends in death for all their merry prey.
At rivers edge the drooping willows sway:
beneath their roots the red-striped stickleback
performs his dance of love to lure away
his bride to be, who never wants to play.
Penitent cows endure horse fly attacks
and lash their tails across their weeping backs,
useless travail as lifeblood seeps away.
From sandy holes along the river's banks
the martins take the air in serried ranks,
and join the swallows scribbling on the clouds,
black surds in Roman numerals describe
the fleeting shrouds that mark the time and place
of the million small funerals it takes
to slake the metabolic thirst of birds.
The footless swift emits its piercing scream,
joining the killing crowd above the stream
where, in the rippling waters, endless stores
of naiads swim, nymphs cling to waving reeds,
some changing costumes for the final act
of love, or sowing seeds along the shores,
before dying, seduced by nature's pact.
Elsewhere, in the desert air, barn swallows
dive and soar over bare Euphrates' banks
oblivious to their brother predator
who drones in circles round abandoned tanks,
where they sometimes nest in rusty hollows,
threatened only by the curious child
intent on seeing nature in the wild.
In the meander of a sandy dune
foot prints of a child at play are memorised
in mud, between the bulrush and the blood
flowing from the mangled bodies, hit by
missiles launched from the whining drone above
the desert sands, guided by foreign hands,
that strike down carelessly each stinging fly.
Gaia, that unprincipled virago,
has stamped the traces of her imago
on the greatest and the least: man or fly
must follow the imperative to kill
and die; meanwhile in the reddening sky
effulgent Hesperus in retrograde
burns as the evening light begins to fade.