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.