On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Four calling birds….

[calling birds is a corruption of the original colly or collie birds – blackbirds]


The Calling


Against winter sun, a Christmas card
seen in a moment’s stillness,
silhouetting blackbirds in a leafless tree.


Then, the breaking open of an instant,

song loosed from each beak, as orange
peel sometimes zesting dry grass,


other times bright with red berries
and claw trails pitting through snow.

Sudden gifts from the hedgerow.


A chimney sweep of tail brushes air

across air, leaves no stain behind

in its undergrowthed wake.


But, observed as it happens: that fall

of leaves, song from a beak,

snow from clouds, night from sky…

feathers from feathers, then rising again,
as one, two, three – shake out that plumage –

four colly birds might right now lift into flight.



The Falling


Bright with summer sun, a postcard
scene of flitting curves and blondness,
silhouette dolly birds upon the beach.


Then, the slipping open of glossed lips,

a-drawl-come-simper-whisper drools

to rest sometimes between their…


Other times, see their trolleys laden

with booze and cherries for cocktails.

Sudden gifts from the silly aisles.


A flamboyant flick of hair brushes air

across lipsticked face, leaves a perfume stain

for those that supermarket in their wake.


But, observed as it happens: that cascade

of ash blonde which never greys, the fall

of nail varnish from a brush…how the penny

finally drops. Then eyebrows rise again,
as one, two, three – shake out that plumage –

four dolly birds might right now drift into sight.




Sarah James’s first collection Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010) won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards 2011. She is a journalist, mum, MA creative writing student and dabbler in art. Her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk .

The image created in response to poems by Sam Hutchcocks and Julie Haller (of Moonlit Murals)