For Sarah:  always a conservationist, latterly a twitcher.




In Umbria – the cuore verde of pristine, wooded hills,

Orvieto’s honey-pale wines,

the paintings of Perugino and Pisano,

the Tiber’s milky jade,

tartufo nero

they stew thrush.




At least once in our suburban garden,

house sparrow, green finch, ring-necked dove, wren,

jay, wood pigeon, robin, starling,  swift,  jackdaw, blue tit,

magpie,  blackbird, sparrow hawk, chaffinch, swallow,

gold crest, bull  finch, great tit, hen harrier, mistle thrush

have, variously, courted, mated, nested, birthed, ate, shat,  killed,

bobbed, waddled, hopped, walked, pecked, fluttered, shrieked,

whistled, warbled, squawked and died.




But, above all, sang – that esoteric music,

rich and varied as their plumage:

untutored, uncultivated, unstinting.




Though only crows circle St. Francis’ basilica,

in Cheshire ostriches are farmed.

How accidents of diet, doctrine, sentiment and flag

determine extinction!




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