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Before the marsh on the coastal plain was drained –

to turn the dark, rich glacial soil

into the broad fields of market gardens,

selling fresh produce south to the port city

burgeoning daily from mouth to mouth –

the mere was vast, eight square miles and more.


Family groups wandered the margins –

to fish, collect eggs, snare birds. Settlements

became hamlets, became villages:

cutting the reeds for thatching, cutting the peat

for cooking fires from the ice age bogland.




The long orangey-pink streaks of sun setting

over the Irish Sea turn the lake

from silver to pewter, and the birds

to cut-outs. A two carriage commuter train

crosses at the furthest edge, its windows

rectangles of bright yellow in the twilight –

as the watchers in the hides observe,

in a barely whispered wonderment,

thousands of pink-footed geese appear.


They are wintering here from the breeding grounds

in the mountains of Iceland and Greenland –

by day feeding on stubble fields, in the dusk

settling noisily on these dark waters

with their poignant, slightly throaty calls,

their myriad wings black in the fading light.



© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • Ashen Venema
    December 28, 2019

    Fading light, like no other, expands beauty by calling in the past. Lusciously evocative. Loved being there with the poet.

  • Clive Watkins
    January 1, 2020

    What the first section of your poem brought to mind is this, not really a literary response, David, but a kind of “Yes, and…”. In 2005, we spent October and part of November in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. At the time, one of our children and his wife were doctors in the hospital there. What struck us very forcibly was the way the land was capable of sustaining the city’s population of about a hundred and fifty thousand only with massive and continuous subsidies from other parts of the country. Water, for instance, was piped in from a long way off. The European-style lawns that surrounded the best houses and the reservations on the highways in the city were watered at night, and without this regime they would have died. European efforts to make the territory more productive included raising water buffalo (not native: running free, they destroy the watercourses) and growing mangoes and grapes. Tourism and a large military base were important economic functions. Darwin is extremely remote from other centres: everything has to be brought in. These are only examples. It seemed to us the case that the only lifestyle the land was naturally capable of sustaining was one where human populations per acre were very low – the lifestyle of the Aborigines perhaps. We have misused our planet horribly. I sit here at my desk in my small Yorkshire village and write you this on my iMac.

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