Crows roost in the trees of Ballybeg, down there at the bottom of the hill. Their raucous chorus reaches me at my desk, here in my burrow under the gorse. I look out over the parish, and now and then a solitary crow drifts into the frame, riding an uplifting wind, taunting me with its proprietary ownership of the landscape. And I think of Ted Hughes' poem "Littleblood", from that haunting volume Crow:
O littleblood, hiding from the mountains in the mountainsI'm not sure who or what Littlebood represented in Hughes' imagination, but for me crow, certainly, and his shadows in this landscape, at once thousands of years under human cultivation, still wild and wounded with some more ancient power, as thorny and primal as the gorse.
Wounded by stars and leaking shadow
Eating the medical earth.
O littleblood, little boneless little skinlessI'll spend the next several months beating back the gorse and bracken and bramble and stone and wind and rain that always threatens to engulf the cottage, the singsong of the stars at night, keening.
Ploughing with a linnet's carcase
Reaping the wind and threshing the stones.
O littleblood, drumming in a cow's skullThat crow out there rising on the wind, the heron and the coal tit, the kestrel and the wren, the blackberries bleeding their August juices into the earth. This land doesn't belong to me. I just roost on it, temporarily, until crow's shadows rise up at night and eat me.
Dancing with a gnat's feet
With an elephant's nose and a crocodile's tail.
Grown so wise grown so terribleI wait. I roost. And as I write a clear blue sky has given way to an all-enveloping cold Atlantic mist that has rolled in through the Windy Pass.
Sucking death's mouldy tits
Sit on my finger, sing in my ear, O littleblood.Sit. Sing.