Caught by the River

The Firecrests: a poem by Robert Selby

Robert Selby | 17th June 2017


The hazel is ablaze with catkins.
The elms nod their heads in a blue realm.
Below, daffodils kiss down the knoll
to the kissing gate, the brown field beyond
exact, freshly tidied by plough.

You are standing in it,
your face turned up to the new sun,
the tartan scarf – Clan Barclay? The
irrepressible Quakers of Aberdeenshire? –
so yellow around you
on its last outing for,
fingers-crossed, more than a wee while.


You think you saw firecrests in the elms
so why don’t we go and see?
I follow, and my delight
at having you with me
I mask as a possible sighting.

When you lean in to borrow my sightline
up my outstretched arm and finger
the weight against my shoulder
is one of a possible future,
balanced precariously
as a sweet-wrapper snagged in a tree.


Even here has a coffee franchise.
You sip from a mug
held in both hands
while I look anywhere but into your eyes.
Steam rises to mock-Tudor beams.
The light of afternoon and the smell of beans.
Your legs are pointed towards me,
which I read somewhere means you like me,
or don’t, I can’t remember.

I shake a sachet of sugar,
as if wisdom might talk from within.
How do I get beyond birds and coffee?
How do I tell you I know you were ill,
I’ve seen a photo of you
when you were stick-thin?


Robert Selby on Caught by the River/on Twitter