Flying lessons

Kevin Rooney's pic.jpg

Kevin Rooney, ‘Take-off’

This Autumn, George alone is teaching flight;
the children’s mother, Zelda, died in June.
The six-month cygnets group in amber light;
perhaps another lesson might be soon?
I’m always anxious at this time of year,
as Flying Season sometimes heralds death
by powerlines or trees. The slightest veer,
a broken neck and rattling final breath.

Yet “Come!” George snorts, and all extend their wings
while raising heads and chests above the lake,
their strong feet paddling; in a flash of rings
they run, ascend the mellow air and make
a fleeting V before the swift descent,
all safe, for now, and cheeping-ly content.

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Published on Snakeskin, November 2021

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This is another poem about the Swan family of Pittville Park. I wrote it following a trip to the park in October. It’s still strange to see George and the cygnets without Zelda, but he really is doing a wonderful job raising the children as a solo parent. Well done, Dad!

Flying season is a very dangerous time for the cygnets. So far this year there’s been just one accident, when a cygnet flew into a tree and fell back into the lake. Fortunately, the knock wasn’t too hard. In previous years, however, there have been deaths. One year, a cygnet sustained a broken leg when flying into a tree. The break was so bad, the poor cygnet had to be put down.

As always, I’m grateful to Vale Wildlife Hospital for the help they provide, not just during flying season but all year round. Thanks to George Simmers again, for publishing this sonnet. And thanks to Kevin Rooney, for permission to use his brilliant photo! It features the famous bridge over Pittville’s Lower Lake, a great spot for birdwatching.