Poem from The Bird Room

Hello. This is a poem I wrote about my late father, Len Oldfield, a lifelong birder.
It was published in issue 31 of Under the Radar magazine, and now in my new poetry pamphlet, The Bird Room
from Hedgehog Poetry Press, which looks at how my own attitude to birds was influenced by my dad's (obsessive!) hobby. 

It pairs some of my dad's prize-winning bird photos with my poems - a collaboration and closeness
we never achieved when he was alive - and aims to show how in spite of our differences, 
we were both looking for the same thing (whether through a pair of binoculars or not!) - love.
Hope you enjoy the poem.


Family: Diomedeidae

It was always as if birds came to you by magic
when they appeared on branch, rock, water,
and you exclaimed I don’t believe it!
then reeled off a name. But of course you believed it –
you’d done your research, knew the jizz backwards.
No question then that it was a black-browed albatross
you spotted from your South African hotel balcony
as it passed, close inshore. In your bird notes, 
precisely logged as Scottburgh, 0700, July 11th 2005,
you wrote with the excitement of a schoolboy:
From my first sighting, I never saw it flap a wing,
and I watched it out of sight.
You know you are somewhere special
when you get an albatross in the bins.

In your final days, another albatross came,
visible through the hospital window only to you.
Your gaze was steady, sure. Afterwards, in the notes
you’d left in the bird room, addressed to me,
you say in that tiny Parkinson’s script
that if you could be any creature, it would be a bird.
I would spread my wings, and go anywhere I wanted.
I sit at your desk with a pile of field guides and read
how seabirds’ white undersides can make them difficult
to spot against the sky as they pass overhead.
I will look up then, sometimes, often, imagine
what might be there unseen and think of you,
wings fully extended, wind-shear soaring,
never needing to flap a wing.

Dawn Gorman

  • What a truly perceptive poem this is, bringing out the lifetime enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment of someone who must have been a close family member and revealing their encyclopaedic knowledge of birds of all species. An interest probably shared with the poet as a young person that has clearly endured to this day.
    The description of the flight of the albatross is pure magic and is exactly what Leonado da Vinchi referred to in his description of flight (see my profile if you've forgotten what he wrote!).
    In more recent times, the comparison to the cruel limiting effects of Parkinson's is very powerful and reminds us of how vulnerable we all are, and the suffer's longing to be a bird and experience the freedom of that limitless flight.
    There's a lifetime of love and dedication expressed here, and I'd like to see more of this poet's work.
  • Thanks so much for your kind and perceptive thoughts on my poem, Wingless Pilot. Yes, we are, indeed, all vulnerable - human beings, and birds, and all else.
    I was very interested to read that da Vinci quote, which I hadn't seen before, thank you for that.
    If you - or anyone else - would be interested in reading the rest of the poems in this sequence, and seeing my father's bird photographs, the pamphlet is just £5 plus £1 p&p - if you drop me a line via my website contact page dawngorman.co.uk/contact.php I will give you payment details and get a copy in the post to you. Thanks again. Dawn Gorman