His gum-coated tongue laps up flies
in a slow rolling motion. He goose-steps
with long black legs through trampled night sand
flicking up a fine dust.
She nestles into tall gutterings, curls
up to high-flown paper and leaves, and sleeps till
the sun sinks. Rain runs off her brown back,
only snow disturbs her.
At first light, sated, he walks the shoreline
ducking his head, sucking up water – a rasping
whistle through his teeth – the spray loosens rough
gum from his tongue.
They live separate lives. She attracts him
with a low murmering, excitement pitches
vibrations as far as half a mile, in waves
five minutes apart.
He picks up the signal, flies back and forth
across the river in a bid to escape but comes
closer to her position on every return journey
until he lands at her feet.
Mating over, he dances in rage – now leaving
now charging, though he is weak already.
He leaves her to bury the eggs, and screams
at the opposite bank.
She takes him twice a year. The eggs hatch out
when the ground is soft, April, October….frost
would suffocate the young, they must fight
their way out with still-soft claws.
The moment their eyes open, necks stretch and
feet hook into a rival’s head, red is the first
colour they know. She clambers over his strong thighs
eyes on the road ahead.
Published in STAND Magazine 1993