The Birds of Rhiannon

after the music by James MacMillan – the Birds
of Rhiannon lament the death of King Bran.


it begins with water          pale lobelia trembling in a cold pool,

wet sunlight glancing off mounds of fallen slate;      birdsong


from an alder      wings whirr softly, black on purple

but spangled

blue and gold       strings hum       woodwinds breathe


a soot streak of wild garlic

sky greyer now,    a soft pattering down of starlings,

wind not through withered reeds       but bird bones   drums draw down hail

the slag heap      a tooth that cannot be pulled

a trumpet nails jackdaws

to the branches of a thorn tree

gall black wings flare in a firework whoosh       thunder sheets

shudder      driving the ‘now’ into a storm lightning forks

the sky pit    leans broken sickles against rotted sills

strings pluck a percussive pulse      cymbal shrieks a piercing


whoever is ruined will blast

the slate beds      whoever is destroyed

will be filled with song       loud, loud       a fit

of corvid screaming       the burn      the carrion    the clench

the birds are a gash, a gloom

the birds oh the birds black the day.

Sheila Wild