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The Cormorants
Someone invited them in
and they sat
perched on the backs of chairs on the mantel
on the banisters and landings
hunched like dowagers
or the terrible mad old man on a horse I saw one winter
hunting over the fields
near Oxford:   
And they took up residence
settled into
our living space
watching us out of their alien eyes
arranging their feathers
to look like fur
a tang of salt and diesel
in the air
as they hopped from room to room
heads cocked
picking up scraps
of household talk:
All that winter
their hooded shapes
absorbed the daylight
like statues in Lenten Churches
they were large
full bodied
unyielding oily and plump
if you bumped against them
on the stairs in the dark:
And the house filled up
with the weight
of moisture in the atmosphere
mould grew on the phone
and nobody answered
when we rang
the neighbours couldn’t remember
our names:
Everything heavy
with forgetfulness
but for the birds
forever diving
through gaps in the conversation
bringing up words
that had slipped from the page
and colours that slid
off the wall
to fall through the cracks in the floor
or come to rest
with the spoons and forks
in the kitchen drawers:
Till again it was spring
and suddenly
some of the gobbets of thought
the birds dredged up
took shape
on the kitchen floor
where the sun shines in
twisting around until
the birds were named –
our own familiar selves
identified too late:
In the drawer of the desk
the family
of knives and forks
and spoons and spools
of words and thread
and paper bags
and broken things
were meaningless:
were what they were
the soul’s detritus
oil-stains on the water
a raft from the Medusa