Bold feral and tender

Her hands sang as she fed Avro Vulcan
the orphaned falcon dead cockerel chicks
as bright and sweet as toys in eggs
of Easters past if not for their bloody beaks
She abhorred the hint of suffering
but deep in bird eat bird reality
bowed to nature with alacrity
the refugee from the quivering city
on the deviant plane where she made a living
with her head and often felt empty
laughed at the lie as fast became slow
as her green fingers became leaves
branching into forests of honey dew trees
where the murmuring bees bumbled her face
as though she were a flower on the mountainside
recording the autobiography of the earth
bold feral and tender as any romance
the farmers were killing with possession
the world chose not to see
If Avro Vulcan were an imported dove
she could hold in a cage and coo
she would miss her curved and precision pointed
from beak to tail comical at times
when she landed to demand extra food on the lawn
where if she could speak with her talons spread wide
she would say come on bitch night is falling

Photo by Leyton Greener

Leslie McKay was born in Christchurch in 1955 and eventually became a poet. She gives writing workshops and is a proof-reader and a gardener. In 2016 she won the Caselberg International Poetry Prize. Her work has been published in Landfall and various anthologies. In collaboration with Lisa Tui Johnathan, a number of her poems have become songs.

Leslie comments: Bold Feral and Tender” demanded to be written, much as Avro Vulcan demanded to be fed. The poem wouldn't leave me be until I had the final draft. When I posted it to “How Writers Write Poetry”, an online course offered by the University Of Iowa, I received a negligible response.

Then a tutor made me aware I'd written something perhaps extraordinary. Encounters with a New Zealand raptor will do that to you. I was boring myself with my romanticism one evening as I waited for Avro, so tested the veracity of an idea from that day's session at Iowa. What if? What if I said come on bitch, night is falling and attributed it to Avro, rather than myself. The night I learned of my Caselberg win, she received extra steak for dinner. And we watch and wait for her return, this Autumn/Winter.’

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