Swallows Hibernating at the Bottom of a River

- and a fisherman pulls them out
in his net
along with dancing bream, tench, barbel

cleft wings trickling and marbled
in January sun
by headwater freshets

and coiled-wire leg bones
you'd never normally see

tucked in riparian mud
like prayers engraved on a rice grain.

Ruth is a British poet and author with close connections to conservation, wildlife, Greece and music. She has published a novel, eight works of non-fiction and eight poetry collections, most recently The Mara Crossing, which mixes poems and prose to explore migration. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Council Member for the Zoological Society of London.  See her website for more.

This article first appeared in the 02 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, And you thought 2011 was bad ...