Stay very still, or she'll be off again,
I tell myself, as she makes scrambled eggs.
She hasn't eaten all day. Don't tell Mum
she instructs, rolling back a sleeve to show
the dark blue swallow travelling up her arm,
far above vetoes. Of all the shop's spells
for happiness: hearts, dragons, family names,
she chose to be a summer visitor,
born here, but always ready to flit,
the silhouette of good news some of us
are still prepared to look for. The songbird
will help her survive long distance, she says.
Veteran sailors opt to draw its picture
on their chests, after the perfect compass
that spins in its small head, able to guide
them home no matter what. I stroke the charm —
just colour on bare skin. Of course, I say,
shaping my palms to make a silent nest.
For weeks afterwards the secret flutters.
Written by Nuala Watt.
Published in Nuala's collection, Dialogue On the Dark, Calder Wood press, 2015 (at www.calderwoodpress.co.uk but no longer available). Nuala is currently working on a new collection.