#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

A Swift Tale – #52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 30

Grassland melts into rock, sand:

a cocktail of pollen and seaweed

churning with the waves.

Splitting the heady air, bullets

of sooty brown feathers

zoom overhead,

changing direction with speed and accuracy

like no other.

I have an inkling

of who these daredevils are,

with their scythe-shaped wings and forked tails,

yet it takes a second sighting,

snatching up as many details as I can

in the split second

it takes for them to pass by,

to be sure.

Swift in nature, not just name;

never lingering, rarely settling –

lives lived on the wing.

Eating, sleeping: all of it

performed while facing the wind.

Yet there is one thing

incompatible with flight,

and it is this

which called them from Africa

back to our blustery shores:

nest building season.

Days filled with locating safe sites,

or returning to spaces

already trusted and true:

eaves of old churches,

hole-riddled roofs, sea cliffs, and crags.

Then, time for building and spring cleaning;

no preparation too much

for new arrivals.

Developing quickly, the young

will become eager, itching

to make their first journey.

Like their parents before them,

off they’ll go days after fledging,

enjoying the company of peers.

Ready to spend months

south of the Sahara, chasing rains

that surge insect populations –

plenty of food

on which to grow strong.

[Swifts are at risk of losing valuable nesting sites due to refurbishments and modern building techniques. To help them, special nesting boxes can be placed up high – somewhere accessible from the wing, so not anywhere low to the ground. These nest boxes can be found on the RSPB website linked below]

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, social fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

(You can also become a member of the RSPB and support them month to month. Members receive Nature’s Home magazine and seasonal guides for what to look out for when out and about. Details are on their website.)

Poetry

Main Theme

My foot comes down on the path

and I am flooded with waves of green.

Grasses, trees, leaves all washing towards me,

and I am a single spark of red on the landscape,

the inside of me just as different

as the outside.

I am destined

for enormous power, so they say,

and I have felt it and seen the sprites

that flock to me because of it.

Yet it’s too much – too much at once – I can’t hold on.

It slips away or I slip away,

the link eroding just as quickly as it forms.

The heat of the moment

gone, my body spent, and now my only choice is to lie

still, watching the world.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Merry Weather

At first, I didn’t see her. She was caught between two bushes, tangled up in cobwebs, spindly branches and the lacy trim of her silvery blue cape. I did hear her, though. Cursing so much that I thought a group of drunken sailors had strolled around the corner from the pub in town.

But no. All the swearing was emanating from a tiny fairy, red in the face from her efforts to untangle herself.

If it wasn’t for the fact that she saw me and gave such a scowl that my legs automatically wanted to run for the hills, I might have laughed. Instead, I mumbled an offer of assistance while pulling my most solemn expression, and stepped forwards to help. My fingers slipped in my attempt to de-cobweb her and I ended up jabbing her in the head. She bit me for that. Straight through the skin, so that a bead of blood rose from the puncture wound and stained her clothes. I winced, but her long frenzy of expletives detailing every inch of my incompetence drowned it out. Then she wept, equally as loud, about the state of her clothes and how they were positively ruined.

I think it was supposed to make me feel sorry for her, but in actuality it made her terrifying hold on me weaken enough to simply pinch her roughly out of the tangled mess, tearing her cloak completely. She wailed even more. I pointed out, bluntly, that she was free and if she hadn’t have been wearing the ridiculous thing, she probably wouldn’t have ended up in that state in the first place. In answer, she took a small stick from the top of one boot and jabbed it at my nose. Hot sparks shot out the end, singeing my nostril hairs. I let her go in disgust and watched her zoom away, emitting the wettest raspberry I’d ever heard. At least, I hope it was a raspberry…

Reviews

Review: Moroda by L. L. McNeil

Moroda is the story of a girl who escapes from her home city as it is burnt by Dragon fire, and tries to find her place in a world now threatened by war. With her sister, a foul-mouthed sky pirate, two weapon smiths with the ability to transform into animals, an ex-solider from the city, a man with the power to fly and control storms, and a man whose race is known for being deadly killers, she travels across the world of Linaria in search of the answers she so desperately seeks.

I first heard about Moroda via Twitter, as one of the people I follow retweeted a post by the author which showcased the cover. It caught my eye immediately, and led me to read the synopsis, which I found very captivating. I think the reason for that is it hinted at the idea of the plot itself revolving more around Moroda’s own personal journey of self-discovery than the typical fantasy quest of saving the world with an object/magic/intense training. It does have this basic element within it, because of the threat the dragons (and certain others) pose to all of Linaria, but McNeil has cleverly twisted it so that you don’t really notice such a trope is being used.

What’s captivating about Moroda’s character is that she is forced to recognise her own short-comings by spending time with characters with vastly different backgrounds and ideals to her – she and her sister grew up in relative luxury compared to most, but when their father suddenly died, all financial stability they had went out the window. So as she watches her companions, she starts to realise that she has very little experience in most areas of life and is eager to improve on that.

The other characters in Moroda were equally interesting. The sky pirate, Amarah, who is strongly independent and not afraid to speak her mind, is so well-written that I had a solid sense of who she was from the off. Palom and Anahrik, who have the ability to transform into animals, played well off of each other, highlighting that even though they have a strong friendship, they are very different people – Anahrik is hot-headed and quick to take up a challenge, whilst Palom is more rational and patient (until a certain point in the story, where Palom actually takes on some of Anahrik’s personality traits, for reasons I can’t state because of spoilers). Morgen, the soldier – in fact, I believe he is a captain – is a bit harder to get to know because his arc is somewhat slower that the others, more on par with Moroda’s, where he doesn’t really know what to do or where he belongs after the city is burnt. But I slowly picked up who he is: a good man initially quick to follow orders, then after he becomes aware that those orders may not be for the best, just a man trying to do his best to help prevent the oncoming war and protect those he loves.

Then we have Kohl and Sapora, both from races which Moroda knows relatively little about. Kohl calls himself a dragon hunter, and initially warns Moroda and her sister about the dragon heading to their city. He is an outcast from his race, and we don’t really find out why until a good way through, though the whole time it was unclear whether he was trustworthy or not – I wanted to, but felt like I should be wary. Though he can’t transform into an animal like Palom or Anahrik, he has wings on his back which allow him to take to the skies. His race all have the power to harness thunder and electricity, though his powers go a step further as he can freeze things. But it does seem very much like a power he doesn’t want.

Sapora is my favourite character, mainly because all the reader knows about him initially is that his race is associated with violence, and even though Moroda wants to look past that, his very presence put her on edge. The arguments he and Amarah have reveal a lot about both characters, and show off his sharp tongue.

Eryn, Moroda’s younger sister, is introduced very strongly, but as the story went on, I felt as though her individuality was lost. She follows Moroda because of how close they are – they have no other family, so they’ve had to depend on each other since losing their father. While Moroda can be a bit rash and impulsive, Eryn tends to hold her back to get her to consider things first before she takes action. I enjoyed the fact that even though Moroda is older, Eryn is the one who is most mature. However, some of her reactions and traits were ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’, and I think that’s why she paled as bit as a character for me.

With such a cast of characters, the plot is very driven by them, which is rather refreshing to see in fantasy. If I hadn’t enjoyed the characters, and had they not been so well written, then I would have said this was just an okay book. As it is, I think Moroda is quite the riveting read, and actually got me out of a reading slump I’d been in for a while. Yes, there is a lot of world building, and some of the lands and customs are only lightly touched upon, but I have to consider that this is the first book in a series, so many of the questions I have about Linaria will probably be answered in the sequels.

I consider myself quite an avid fantasy reader, and personally,  I would rate Moroda well up there with some of my favourite reads by authors published by big publishing houses. I really highly recommend it – even though I finished it a few days ago now, the story is still with me.

Reviews

Book review: Dragon Rider: The Griffin’s Feather by Cornelia Funke

Several years ago, I read Dragon Rider, a middle-grade fantasy about a dragon named Firedrake and his rider, Ben, and their quest to find the dragons a new home, which I  absolutely loved. Recently, book 2, The Griffin’s Feather, was released in the UK, so I simply had to pick it up.

The story focuses on the efforts of a group of conservationists for fabulous creatures (as they’re referred to in the book), who are Ben’s adoptive family. They’ve just found the last pair of winged horses – but the mare is attacked by a venomous creature and dies, and only she had the power to keep her foals alive.

The stallion agrees to bring the foals to the sanctuary where the conservationists (the Greenbloom family) live, where they discuss possible ways to save the foals. Many important scientists and conservationists for fabulous (and ‘non-fabulous’) creatures chip in with their ideas and opinions, and eventually the only valid option is to use the marrow from a griffin’s feather. Unfortunately, griffins have not been seen by humans in hundreds of years, have a reputation for being aggressive and also hate other animals, particularly winged horses – and dragons.

In an effort to keep the stallion, and Ben’s best friend, Firedrake the dragon, safe, the Greenblooms decide to keep their real goal from them and pretend that the solution is something else (even though their task might prove to be dangerous), so neither of them will try to get involved and put themselves in danger.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved the premise, and it was nice to be back with familiar characters again, along with some new ones. I also greatly appreciated the nods to David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, as well us others involved in conservation and environmentalism. The book is very much a nudge for children (and adults) to think about animals as creatures to be respected and treated with compassion, and to acknowledge the world around us and what we’re doing to it. I wouldn’t say it did it in a preaching way, however – because of the nature of the story, these messages are in it in a very organic way. There’s also a lot of detail in this book about different cultures, species of animal and places – the characters travel to Indonesia, and I was so completely immersed that I felt like I was experiencing it along with them. And of course, the book has a happy ending, too.

I think, overall, that what Cornelia Funke has woven together here is a wonderfully imaginative story, with a strong, yet non-intrusive message, that readers of ALL ages will appreciate and enjoy.

Poetry

A pensive hound

Snug and warm,

a mass of fluffy black fur

to rest my head against;

my bright-eyed, wet-nosed mentor

lounging in the shade

behind discarded tins of fence paint.

 

A lolling tongue

hangs from her mouth

as she looks up at the sky,

watching a flock of birds ark and swoop,

they dip their wings to her

as they pass by.