By Adrian Salmon
Each morning now we look out the window,
wonder if yesterday
will have been the last day of swifts.
It’s become late so fast –
5 months. 5 months!
in which the tree outside our window
has swelled from bare branches to full leaf,
the air from empty of their cries, to bursting –
their reassuring squadrons a covenant:
not all patterns are broken,
not all things on earth
have been drowned.
They’re on final manoeuvres now,
youngsters learning to fly or die,
that they must never stop,
that any floor is lava.
Any other year
we’d be away for their leaving,
returning to a twinge of certainty:
the swifts are gone –
this year, unknowingly,
we’ll have a final cry-loud evening,
waking next morning to desertion,
streaming their absence live.
This poem began from a comment my partner made as she was standing by the window one morning – she couldn’t hear the swifts calling, and wondered if they’d already gone, and we’d missed it. We’ve lived in our house for nearly 15 years now, and realised the first year we moved in that we had swifts nesting in the eaves. Since then they’ve been the sound of our summer, and their leaving is one of the things that signals to us that summer is over and we’re moving into autumn. It seemed a perfect subject to talk about this year’s extremely strange summer. It seems like at one and the same time we’ve experienced it in slow-motion and great detail, and have also missed it altogether due to being locked in…