Caught by the River

Like Goldfinches

4th August 2022

A poem by Andrew McNeillie.

This late spring, and spring was late,
the Goldfinches came
riding in the tops of next-door’s silver birch
as it took on a wash of green.
I thought they’d soon move on
after the cold snap and the sunflower hearts
back into the country, and
they seemed to vanish, soon enough.
But I was wrong.

As this morning I see, all cover blown,
half-way into June, their fledglings come
sipping at the garden pond
down among the ‘Wild Iris’ – dipping,
flitting, twittering, here and there,
and now, and then, toppling about,
like fallen trapeze artists, to bounce
up and down and spring, wobbling
to their feet on the anti-heron net.

Then in fright at something
or nothing mirrored in the pond,
up they whirr away, into
the tops of next-door’s silver birch
to bring a circle round and be
like Goldfinches, windblown –
first-generation suburbanites though they are,
lost thistle-seed tweakers –
delicate picklocks at the feeder,
condemned to join me here,
serving life as I am.


Taken from ‘Striking a Match in a Storm’ — a volume of new and collected Andrew McNeillie poems which is out now, published by Carcanet.