Welcome to Monday evening at dVerse, where poetry is always on tap! It’s quadrille night, so our poems are small, but perfectly formed.
A quadrille is a poem of 44 words, including the prompt word, or a variation of that prompt word. And the word I’ve chosen tonight is “swift”.
Here in the UK, spring is definitely on its way. Everything is greening up. There are daffodils in the hedgerows and tulips in the park. The buds on the apple trees are starting to swell. The starlings are starting to head back to Scandinavia, and we are starting to think about our summer birds.
Swifts are a relative of the swallow – but harder to spot. They fly around a million miles over a lifetime – enough to take them to the moon, and back, and back again. They fly far enough to go five times round the earth every year. And that’ pretty much all they do. They feed on the wing, they mate on the wing, they land for long enough to lay eggs and hatch chicks, but mostly, they fly. You won’t see them perching on a wire or a twig, you will only see them in flight. And they are fast – they can even beat a peregrine falcon in a flat race.
They are the inspiration for the martlet, a footless bird that features in heraldry. If you see one on a shield, it signifies the fourth son (the first gets the money, the second son went to war, the third went into the church, and the fourth was free to seek his fortune.
Swift also means fast, of course. I’m not sure whether the bird was named for its speed, or if swift was first used as a metaphor likening someone to the bird. Horses are swift and pints are drunk swiftly.
Here’s a poem by W B Yeats to inspire you with a sense of speed and movement:
There where the racecourse is
Delight makes all of the one mind
The riders upon the swift horses
The field that closes in behind.
We too had good attendance once,
Hearers, hearteners of the work,
Aye, horsemen for companions
Before the merchant and the clerk
Breathed on the world with timid breath;
But some day and at some new moon
We’ll learn that sleeping is not death
Hearing the whole earth change its tune,
Flesh being wild again, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is;
And find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses.
And here’s a poem about the birds, by Ruth Pitter:
Flying low over the warm roof of an old barn,
Down in a flask to the water, up and way with a cry,
And a wild swoop and a swift turn
And a fever of life under a thundery sky,
So they go, so they go by.
And high and high and high in the diamond light,
They soar and they shriek in the sunlight when
heaven is bare,
With the pride of life in their strong flight
And a rapture of love to lift them, to hurtle them
High and high in the diamond air.
And away with the summer, away like the spirit of glee
Flashing and calling, and strong on the wing,
and wild in their play,
With a high cry to the high sea,
And a heart for the south, a heart for the diamond
So they go over, so go away.
Ted Hughes wrote this fierce and beautiful poems about swifts:
Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts
Materialize at the tip of a long scream
Of needle. ‘Look! They’re back! Look!’ And they’re gone
On a steep
Controlled scream of skid
Round the house-end and away under the cherries. Gone.
Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together,
Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening
For air-chills – are they too early? With a bowing
Power-thrust to left, then to right, then a flicker they
Tilt into a slide, a tremble for balance,
Then a lashing down disappearance
They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come —
And here they are, here they are again
Erupting across yard stones
Shrapnel-scatter terror. Frog-gapers,
Speedway goggles, international mobsters —
A bolas of three or four wire screams
Jockeying across each other
On their switchback wheel of death.
They swat past, hard-fletched
Veer on the hard air, toss up over the roof,
And are gone again. Their mole-dark labouring,
Their lunatic limber scramming frenzy
And their whirling blades
Sparkle out into blue —
Not ours any more.
Rats ransacked their nests so now they shun us.
Round luckier houses now
They crowd their evening dirt-track meetings,
Racing their discords, screaming as if speed-burned,
Head-height, clipping the doorway
With their leaden velocity and their butterfly lightness,
Their too much power, their arrow-thwack into the eaves.
Every year a first-fling, nearly flying
Misfit flopped in our yard,
Groggily somersaulting to get airborne.
He bat-crawled on his tiny useless feet, tangling his flails
Like a broken toy, and shrieking thinly
Till I tossed him up — then suddenly he flowed away under
His bowed shoulders of enormous swimming power,
Slid away along levels wobbling
On the fine wire they have reduced life to,
And crashed among the raspberries.
Then followed fiery hospital hours
In a kitchen. The moustached goblin savage
Nested in a scarf. The bright blank
Blind, like an angel, to my meat-crumbs and flies.
Then eyelids resting. Wasted clingers curled.
The inevitable balsa death.
For the husk
Of my little Apollo —
The charred scream
Folded in its huge power.
The images in this piece are by the rather wonderful Carl Bovis. If you like his work as much as I do, you can find him on Twitter @CarlBovisNature, and at linktr.ee/carlbovis. I bought his book “100 Birds” for my husband’s birthday this year, and we have enjoyed it so much, so I was delighted when Carl gave me permission to use his pictures here.
I hope you feel inspired by flight, by movement, and by birds. You know what to do:
Write a poem – and please link it back to this post. That increases our readership – and yours!
Link your poem into Mr Linky
Take flight among the poems of the dVerse poets – read, comment, enjoy!
Welcome, fellow poets! Time for a swift one…
kenyanito biko said:
Oh yes… thanks on this one. Traced my way back, from a different zone… Wasn’t as swift though..
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Today I have to have a tequila shot… it has to go swiftly
Good evening all, and thank you, Sarah, for a delightful word and prompt. I’ve been watching the birds a lot lately. We went for a walk on Saturday and saw a bird of prey circling over a field, but it was too far away identify it. Swift is a lovely gentle word, quick and light, just like the birds.
Hello Sarah and All. I enjoyed reading the tribute poems to such a super-stamina winged beauty that is the swift. Fun prompt to write to as the weather has been sunny and above freezing which always lifts my spirits swiftly. If you have any Baileys or OMara’s behind the bar, a shot please for my coffee?
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Good evening and Happy International Women’s Day to all! Mine will be a swift visit tonight as I’ve been very busy today, but I will be taking the day off from writing tomorrow to catch up on my reading. Have a wonderful night 🙂
Na'ama Yehuda said:
Ah, this took me swiftly into memory of fog and hope. Lovely!
Thank you, Sarah, for hosting.
What a glorious prompt! (May I have a nice hot cocoa with a bit of ‘fortification’ in it?) 🙂
Hi Sarah and All. Great word, Sarah–and the photos are wonderful!
This was a good one for me. I like words which feel like the wind. Also not a word in such common usage anymore where I live. So that’s interesting. Ironically a very serious poem, but I had fun writing it. Thanks for that & I hope it resonates meaningfully.
great prompt shame my tech is not being swift today.it is acting a bit dodo like. as every time i ask it to do something it goes doh. hang on wait a bit will yah if it keeps this up it become extinct.
Tricia Sankey said:
This prompt got me editing a poem I wrote over the weekend for #slamwords. It seems I can only write or edit with prompt words lately, haha! I will be swiftly posting and then offline a while but will definitely return tomorrow to comment on poems as the quadrille form so much fun! 💖
Ron Rowland said:
I had an idea, then it swiftly escaped me. I had another idea, and it got away too. My two failures finally got me going.
thanks for the amazing details of the swifts life, I had no idea!
Great poetry selections and Carl has a real talent … swifts and dragonflies allude me, they move too swiftly
Thank you for hosting, Sarah. Happy International Women’s Day to all! I am a bit slow arriving at the pub tonight…took a wrong turn so to speak but all is posted well now. 🙂
Good evening and Happy International Women’s Day to all!
Thanks for the wonderful photo. I wrote something swiftly as it’s getting late here and I have an early start tomorrow.
I was taught as a child that if a swift or swallow fly low to the ground rain is coming. Also in Swedish the swift where called tower-swallow all trough my childhood. Was surprised to find they are actually related to hummingbirds rather then swallows. We’ll that’s convergent evolution for you. It fooled even Carl von Linné. 🙂
Please tolerate me. Coming to grips with my grief.
Ali Grimshaw said:
We have a well-known chimney in Portland that people come from all over to visit and observe the swifts, circling, circling before entering for the evening. It is quite a sight.
Thanks for hosting.
Today was warm & sunny…I hope spring comes swiftly 🙂 What a fascinating bird! We have barn swallows (and mud swallows by the riverbanks) which resemble the swift. Thanks for hosting, Sarah!
ben Alexander said:
you know, by coincidence, I once wrote the following limerick:
Swift swish-swishing tails and sure fins
Gliding right through the shipwreck within
Bumping up against walls
As there’s something that calls
Past bones round of my small cranium
Many thanks Sarah, I’ll have a swift half as we used to say. I loved the opportunity to play with this.
Linda Lee Lyberg said:
Hello All- Sorry I am late. We had a new refrigerator delivered and you know how that goes! I hope everyone is well.
Not so swift on this one, I got it in just under the wire.
Thanks for hosting. I enjoyed writing this quadrille.
http://rugby843.blog/2021/03/09/dverse-poets-swift/ I see mr kinky expired?
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