Pheasants assemble in wary dozens
around blue hoppers in the private woods.
Ravens fend for themselves,
and own all the highest treetops.
Pheasants are their own autumn landscapes,
finished off with christmassy heads.
Ravens are whatever colour you require,
provided it’s black.
Pheasants echo their one word for alarm
across the country miles.
Ravens talk fluently in gutturals
it’s hard to place precisely.
Pheasants fly if they must, struggle
to clear hedges, panic themselves into roadkill.
Ravens glide, soar, and plunge, riding
the air’s invisible rollercoasters.
Pheasants end up plucked, displayed
in plastic packs at farmers’ markets.
Ravens keep glaring out of antique woodcuts,
the dark stars of undying dramas.
By Mark Totterdell
This poem came first in the Poems Please Me Prize 2014
Illustrated by Joyce Davis