with primaries taut, they finger-tip
the contoured air, screeching
a splay-tailed upward glide to peak
then tuck – dip – swoop –
and skim the puddled mud,
gape-mouthed and hungering.
It’s San José – St Joseph’s Day – which is Father’s Day in Spain, and a bank holiday in parts of the country. It’s also the day that the swallows return to Capistrano, which is why I’ve chosen to post this poem. (Or, perhaps, this ‘poem draft’.)
I gather that very few golondrinas live at the Mission San Juan Capistrano now. Apparently they prefer to build their little adobe nests farther from the town centre. Even when I was there back in the mid 80s, there weren’t that many, and I remember thinking then that the noise of the “Return of the Swallows” celebrations would be enough to frighten almost anyone and anything away.
Still, here in the Gredos foothills they started re-appearing a fortnight or so ago, and there are plenty about now. Enough, perhaps, to justify a second poem. This one’s from a couple of years ago, before la crisis caught up with the construction industry in Spain:
The chunder of cement mixers
and the shouts of workmen blend
with hammerblows to drown out
birdsong and the river’s low complaint.
Shovels scrape gravel.
Metal grates on stone.
Swallows and martins swoop
shrieking under eaves, inspect effects
of storm and vandalism
on last year’s nest. They plan