Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 179: Firth of Forth

The Mutton Birds

In September 2002 thousands of sooty shearwaters, also known as mutton birds, landed on the shores of the Firth of Forth having flown hundreds of miles off course on their journey home from the Arctic to Argentina.

It’s crowded. Conversations are going on all around,
going on into the distance. This is the soft thrill I am now a part of,
or have been a part of, recognise at least. I hold on as best I can,

swaying with the motion, leaning a little now and then into the possibilities.
In a need to keep steady I look out through the windows. The sea
spreads before us, pink and grey and motionless, giving nothing away,

so as we glide towards the first faint city lights I almost miss what I’m seeing:
the beach and the rocks are flooded with birds; dark and strange
they are crowding the shoreline; for miles and miles they are blackening the sand

and there are distant conversations I know I’m not hearing……..

Jenny Elliott

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