Poetry: Blue Cranes
A poem by Southern Cross director Sydney Duval, Oliviershoek 1966
Blue cranes fill a broken field
With heartbeats – intimations!
Distilled to pecking the silent yield
Of a ploughman’s austere striations;
They wear charming mandarin smiles
In exquisite consummation
Of their journeying a million miles
From the courts of old Cathay
To this parched highveldvlei.
Beside a barbed wire fence
Knots of nervous tension
Unrehearsed rites commence;
A whispered ascetic commotion
Of cloister silhouettes – bird-stalks
Creeping to silent devotion;
Sober Cistercians to vespers walk
Habits falling to gunmetal tails
Sharpening to crucifixion nails.
Friends we unbuckled bodies there
Young, supple reeds in the old stream
Shocked by the burning of morning air;
Impulse, small talk, tobacco
Are enough for giddy dreams;
A bishop bird breaks cover
Paradise is this plumed incendiary
Fixed forever as in some Pompeii;
A jewel streak in clay.
A stifled invocation – all is gone
But blue cranes on their ancient course
Wings beating back to the source;
And free of debris, this face
Changes to the rapture
Of bird movement in space;
Connected to some blessed web
Sunflowers come in my head.
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