At the end of a dull August afternoon,
two little girls, sisters perhaps, in hijabs,
and a stocky boy of ten or so,
and two women, probably their mother
and grandmother, dressed in woollen hijabs
and abayas, are preparing to picnic.
They lay out a tartan rug, and Tesco bags,
on that part of the Green closed to vehicles:
between the low stone wall – beyond which
is the narrow walk along the sea wall,
and occasional notices of bye laws
strictly prohibiting the feeding of gulls –
and the small standing stones of the eisteddfod
from before the war. The coach parties have gone,
so they must have driven here – where few
pass through on their way to somewhere else –
along the winding, bosky corniche
beside the Straits. They sit on a tartan rug,
and share the foil packets from the bags.
The boy notices a seagull waiting near,
and asks if he may feed it with a crust.
The younger woman gestures as if such things
were bountiful now. He leaves the rug,
and throws the bread to the bird, which gobbles it
cautiously. His sisters ask for crusts
to join the boy. Almost immediately
the grass is covered with a flock of
seemingly frantic wings, a maelstrom
of dark grey and white, a turbulence
of harsh, jeering cries. The children flinch,
then run to their mother who gathers them in.
The grandmother, putting food and drink
to one side, pulls up the tartan blanket,
charges the gulls, waving the rug like a flag.
The flock rises silently – then settles
behind the standing stones… ‘After the battle,’
sing the bards, ‘after the battle, hearths
are desolate, birds gather, a woman keens…’