Caught by the River

The Seven Whistlers: a poem by Marc Woodward

8th April 2019

The night was a slab of Delabole slate
lightless and flat, the wind blowing till four.
Then, in the dark respite we heard them call:
The Seven Whistlers – though just six in flight –
keeping low, searching for their lost sister.
Bills shaped like the sliver of a new moon,
long seashore wings, turning over the dawn.

Where has she gone? Far from this Cornish port
in its winter slumber. Wading The Wash?
Stalking the Havant mudflats for soft crabs,
or where the Medway oozes with the Thames?
Further still: the wild marshes of Finland?
The curlews pass, the cold morning brightens.
In a quayside home a sick heart falters.

Based on the legend, common in mining lore, that the call of curlews flying at night is a harbinger of death.


‘The Seven Whistlers’ is taken from Marc’s recent collection Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press 2018). Purchase a copy here.