the magic of one of the world’s largest gannet colonies, close up.
When the gannets turned her flesh
into a gannet, all the light blew in
at once. It sucked her skyward, shrieking.
He squinted from the stunned deck.
She was wheeling like a sycamore-
key. He had witnessed childbirth,
and the indivisibility of pain, here,
too, was hurtful. Her mother’s name
was what she cried out last. But chaos
mends. Then there she was, all china-curve
and braced wing, and a beak he thought
unusually expressive. He ran cold fingers
down her spine and knew the bones. Thrilled
with the common speech of touch, they spoke
in elemental terms that he would later publish
to acclaim. He passes seasons by himself
and reads the Mabinogion and Ovid. Calm
surprises him. He comes home from long visits
in the summer months with eyes like rock-pools.
She’ll have given him Sistines of seabirds,
plummeting parabolas of love. And he’ll
have oiled and preened her feathers and her
blue feet – though it makes him faint, to feel
the quickfire of her heart and breathe the ocean
of her. Change like that must ruin ordinary
folk. These two far from ordinary, neither
knows who gained the greater freedom by it.