Northwords Now Issue 34

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Herringbone

by Larissa Reid

Late summer
The gull lands to twist the neck from the body
And picks at gaping gills,
While mother-of-pearl scales
Cling to its stark yellow beak.
Slick, sleek silver, slapped hard against black rock
Back broken, bones splayed out
Picked clean
And left to bleach.
Recharged, the gull lurches forward and leaves
For another steal at the fishing boat.  

Late autumn
The land is herringboned to the sea
Nipped, tucked and structured,
Laid to rest
Ready for sowing in spring.
Rainwater runs in the ruckles
Shimmering the earth under thick-set skies
Shaved curls overlap
Like the crest of a lapwing’s crown
They will return with their dance
When the warmer winds blow.

Late winter
Wool blanket, herringbone weave
Wrapped up against the wind
That rattles the old worn window-frames
And sends a familiar whistle through the hole in the oak tree,
Down by the gate.
The house martin’s nest a smear against the wall
Erased by water running in invisible trails
From roof to path to land to burn to stream to river to sea
It rarely snows, here,
On the blurred boundary line between soil and salt.

Late spring
The hares have spent time enough
Berating one another for a chance at love
Chasing down the runs of the fields
Before stopping to listen, alert and wild-eyed.
The swallows return
And cut the air into ribbons
In their quest for insects
While the lapwings flip, wing over tail,
In their own bizarre ritual
Under this evening’s herringbone sky.