Deft cliff-hanger, relative newcomer,
pawky stiff-winged tube-noser,
you are sparing of cries,
not much of a singer,
more a croaky chuckling cackle
as you hit me dead in the eye
with a fragrant squirt-stream of fish guts.
Mallymack, sea-maa, sea-dustbin,
who can live a human span,
but now nine-tenths replete
with plastic strands and shards,
mermaid’s tears of resin
from the product-laden Firth.
You close mate-guarded
this only, tapered egg,
written in a single day,
now rocking gently on the blank cliff face.
Within, a new bird-dot forms inwith the sun yoke,
hanging in clear protein on twisting ropes of chalazae.
Endless curve of shellsphere,
strengths to be taken in frail colour.
How did you sign this womb of cryptic tints,
who writes this fluent shell script,
your gull’s hymn to the ovular bird therein?
In Tsinghua an old man
is washing pollution
from the fine granite steps
that climb to Party Headquarters.
He moulds his mop to a brush point
and signs his labour secretly
with three lines of characters,
a mop calligraphy writ in water
That will evaporate before
the morning operatives arrive,
this writing as covert, fragile and muted
as blank signs on eggshell.