against the lustreless grey of the evening sky,
a ghost-bird hovers. The air ripples infinitesimally.
White wings beat, faint as an electrical pulse.
Insubstantial, this twilight bird –
almost imagined. Seen and not see.
A thousand kestrel-lifetimes ago
the first alien men to pass this way
could have observed such a sight;
the Captain, watchfully steering his ship to insinuate its way
between the countless green humps of islands,
urging his crew to look for signs of sky- or shore-life.
They see nothing. The ship sails on towards this lands’ future,
its only trace the creaking of the timbers
and the cries as soundings are taken.
On the leafy fringes of the beach, the Always-native people
with their earth-colours blend into the bush;
the perfect disguise. Hearing, perhaps, the call of an unfamiliar bird,
they gaze across the bay. Their ears do what their eyes cannot,
their brains refusing to contemplate the strangeness of the ship.
They look straight through it. Maybe a flurry at the edge of sight, no more.
They resume their skinning of a kangaroo.
The ship sails on.
The races do not see each other.
The kestrel hovers still
as we move away –
a slight, shuddering disturbance
in the sky’s silence.
Poet: Jenny Shaw
Illustrated by Deborah Kolesar
This poem was Highly Commended for the Poems Please Me Prize 2015
Jenny started writing short stories on her retirement from full-time teaching. After joining a local writing group, she “very tentatively” began to write poetry in 2014. “I now really enjoy the challenge of expressing myself in verse.”
Enjoy other illustrations of this and all winning & commended poems in our eBook Red on Bone