Caught by the River

Birds and Trains: a poem by Michael Pedersen

12th July 2018

Today in Paris, you are sticky
tongued, whistle wet – of buzzards
thermalling above The Campsies,
whose wings disrupt a rainbow,
we do not have the foggiest. So memory
don’t bowdlerise the technicolour
of today’s deep bath, champagne
flutes full as expectation. Steaming,
we are hissing chestnuts, hot as fresh
soap, hot as kind eyes. Mind you,
in retrospect, Hollie prefers
the bath a little cooler. A few days
from now yer gone from here and I am
relishing a moment not a butter-soft
bare bum. It is cooler, whispering
November rain, birds are up,
hefty trains heave by and you
are in Cambridge as Paris puffs out
its chest. Birds and trains I love to
wake to, our great migrants, custodians
of perpetual movement, fucking
fascinating things – one engineered
majesty, the other . . . in fact that
goes fur both. I know little of
ornithology but there is a sense,
an arcane scale of distance
in chirruping beaks, in wheels
grinding down track. Yet Hollie, more
than the sound of singing birds
cracking open new days and trains
powering off maps, more than that,
I like to wake to pictures of you,
a comet coruscating, weaving
words by loose tongue and lovely
licks; thoughts travelling
as electricity, way too fast
to be caught by the mind
that made them. Yer ethereal
edges, clouds in carousel,
in as much as a cloud can
carousel – wherever’s whenever.
These reveries are toe-tinglers,
stomach somersault-ers,
trapeze artists of the mind.
So dinnae dare apologise for filling
an inbox during the nicht
for I am alone in France still basking
in your taste, eating your aubergine
bake; and come let’s take a train ride
thigether: The Blue Grain, Pride
of Africa, Palace on Wheels,
Devil’s Nose, Glacier Express,
yes I looked them up and, heck,
The Flying Scotsman will do
because your lips beckon me
like birdsong to soft and slurping
swathes of juicy SMOOCH!
Greater, faster, further than before.
Like passing trains, we might not
often share the same steel shed
or carry similar cargo, but our
locomotion synced-up is something
sublime and like birds, of feathers every
colour, we make a fantastic racket.


Taken from the collection Oyster, recently published by Birlinn.

Michael reads on our stage at this year’s Port Eliot festival. More info here.