‘Golden flight’ A poem to Bob Adamson by Robyn Rowland

Golden flight  
to Bob Adamson, from the west of Ireland 

Still, these days … 
I hold tight to what keeps me  
alive – a spur-winged  
plover in its broken-wing dance, 
distracting the hawk from her chicks … 
 –  Robert Adamson,  The Golden Bird 
October in Connemara after Atlantic gales  
shred my late petunias, churning sea to growling 
as it claws the stones on Ceann Dólainn bay below. 
It marks the season’s late change, landscape softening, 
roadsides rusting away fuchsia and blackberries. 
A flock of goldfinches, their wings flickering yellow, 
fall like autumn leaves from my power lines  
onto newly mown grass, feeding on seeds with gusto, 
and I think of you and the indelible Goldfinches of Baghdad, 
your poem that rode beauty and cruelty into the flames. 
Last time we met you took snaps to show Juno the jewels  
of a jewfish my father caught and turned into earrings. 
We swapped fish photos for months – 
Bob and fish, Dad and fish – bigger, bigger. 
Since then it’s been birds, birds. I watch them feed, strut,  
fly through your photos on Facebook.  
They stay airborne – rather than being gutted for eating. 
I float the world now as you  
grow more alive to your river, 
so dissolved into its life it inks your veins. 
You called me Colour Girl in middle age,  
though the girl was long gone. 
You had really forgotten me but that didn’t matter. 
I remembered you in the old days at Sydney poetry tables  
all wild and scary with your word-passion. 
I didn’t know you were just uncaged,  
feeling your wings, and we both grew up alone, 
but you were older, crazier, braver 
and my voice still lost, imagining a life 
outside my own loneliness in the country of the Dark.

You read too much, you talked too much,
you lived too hard till your feet finally caught again
in the oyster beds, as the river reminded you
there was solidity in a grandfather past.
I live in a watery place too, both solid and fluid,
my body and soul laid into the land so each mound of me
fits a silent bog-dip, each curve cups a rufty hillock.
Burnished wrack rings Seal Bay with amber
opposite salt-white coral strands and stone,
the grey of dolphins, with a hundred times the memory.

Your ‘speaking page’ is the Hawkesbury River
I travelled over as a kid on the Wisemans Ferry punt,
imagining I was travelling with the three wise men
walking across water. Bodies of moving water have had me since.
You make it a place we can all come to anytime,
feel the ‘serpent’s breath’ even if never spotting it,
learn the miracle of oysters, of oyster-catchers – man and fowl –
the rich unfiltered flow of river life. I envy that belonging.
How torn my own sense of it. Yet here I live inside the natural, same as that.
And birdlife here in the Irish west grows more plentiful each year.

Even the great Golden Eagles of Ireland Yeats never saw –
symbol of wisdom and power for the Druids –
are resurrected, three pair mating in Donegal.
Most birds travel long, long seasonal paths, rejoice in both flight
and landing, then take off again, different in nature and colour
from those wild reds and yellows that blaze my eucalypt alive in Jan Juc.
I can offer you music though – curlews wheeling along ribbons
of song into myth, no more than the creaking wings of
white swans before they glide into my loch
fingering the rushes for danger, their feathers for stray skin.

Skylarks climb vertically, levelling off to barely hover,
singing melodies flute-clear for twenty minutes.
Stonechats call each other in the percussion of two stones struck –
you think you’re kicking rocks walking. Kestrels, wrens, robins,
cobalt blue-tits, pheasant heads red among the reeds, massive seabirds,
magpies evenly marked with white splayed wings black-tipped,
that never repeat in their tunes, all harmony, brains working in halves –
one asleep, the other wakeful, alert. Most amazing are cuckoos –
unwooden – chameleons of the nest, male giving out the call
while he waits on her great deception.

Life is full of confusion, but holding onto beauty
in the natural gives our watery presence a firmer grip.
I think of that old table, typewriters, inked fingers,
and am glad that your keen bird’s eye
is still fishing for poems that grow fat
along the Hawkesbury banks and deeper in.
Golden Bird of poetry. Irreplaceable.
I think of your hair whitening to the chalk of oyster shells
and I like that. Better to age than to go missing.
It would be a terrible loneliness, if you were not in this world.

Robyn Rowland

Robyn Rowland, an Irish-Australian citizen, has been living between Ireland and Victoria for over 30 years, and working in Turkey since 2009. In December 2019 she returned to NSW, caring for her father who died 2 years late at 102. She has 14 books, 11 of poetry, most recently Under This Saffron Sun – Safran Güneşin Altında, (Knocknarone Press, Ireland 2019)