By Matthew Harrison
ON TAKING OFF AT HEATHROW
If I see England from a cabin port –
Lanes deep in shadow, hedgerows frosted gold
By winter sun – then come images fraught
With sadness: brothers dispersed, mother old,
Friends long gone. Yet this boy beside me cries
And laughs and prods his neighbour gleefully,
For unburdened by memories he flies,
And flying, thinks on greater joy to be.
And who is right? Who knows if joy to come
Will outweigh joy lost, if at journey’s end
More warmth than yesterday’s now-cooling sum?
If old farewells hurt, will new greetings mend?
Best leave grief for hope, and while day is bright
Fare forward, and forget the coming night!
I sweep over hillside, watching
For the twitching leaf revealing
A small creature trembling
In life’s jeopardy, waiting
Until I have swept by.
Sudden out of shadow into sun,
Warmth beating up from leaves
Sustaining me, I glide
Effortlessly in arcs up the valley:
My valley, mastered by me, mine
Wheeling low, I smell the leaves’ sap
The dark scent of the soil;
The hillside teems with life, with food:
There, beneath a twig, a bird
Unaware that I hover above.
I could strike suddenly
In a swoop of furled pinions,
Grip and lift and tear,
Tear the briefly-squealing life
Until, limp, it drips from my beak.
Yet I choose to fly on:
I fly out over waste of water,
Sun-glinting, myriad wavelets moving,
Until there, washed up in flotsam and foam,
The belly of a dead fish.
Stinking, salt-ripe, gorgeous:
I tear and pull at the carcass,
Arch my neck and bolt down hunks,
Tear yet more, peck out glassy eyes,
Till, satiated, I stand over the remains.
Then I heave myself heavy into flight,
Buoyed by warm air currents
To the hill where my fellows gather,
Circling silently as the light falls,
Completing the ritual of the day.
Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from to literary to science fiction and he is currently writing poetry. He has published pieces in all of these genres. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these.