there were all these birds, I couldn’t tell you how many
in the fifty foot mess of ivy and wisteria
we’d let grow up our and the neighbours’ wall,
and twice a day the birds, sparrows mainly,
some wood pigeon and a pair of blackbirds
who had three, then two, then three young again
all in the space of one spring
into summer, in the time it takes
for a human child
                                          to move
from lying to sitting eight birds
from one couple
                                   grew and left
the nest,
                 and every time the parents
flew in to feed them
                                             and every time
the young
                     batted their wings
against that vegetal wall
in the week or so
                                   it took them
to fly
               and above all
                                             every time
those countless sparrows
               went in and out and in and out
shaking down the dead leaves
God knows how long
                                             behind the living ones
so that twice a day
                                        despite it being
spring and summer
                                                  the ground
would be covered in brown leaves,
and dried guano
                                  that tangle
of plants                                              would loosen
unnoticeably,                                     unnoticeable
until the night
what must have been tonnes
of water fell and under the weight
of that water and under its own weight
the growth peeled off from the wall
and folded, birds and all, and fell bent
double like an omelette in our yard

for a day after we cleaned it up
                                                                the birds,
instead of heading away,
                                                 kept returning
to the spots on the wall
their perches had been, and then,
instead of heading
they all of them crowded
into the one remaining clump
of wisteria that, growing up tight
against the house, had weathered
the rain storm,
                              all those numberless
birds, used to
moving in a leafy
in this corner
                       as if
even a fragment
                              of what was home
is preferable
                            to home
as if
         the quivering
thing inside
will keep
coming back
so long
as something,
no matter
how small
or torn,