November chill so I fill the kettle, sniff the earl grey
which seems to have the fragrance of Thailand silk,
spoon some into the Hockney-yellow teapot.
I’m warming my hands on its comforting curve
when a parakeet lands on a dead sunflower head,
snatches seeds, then flaps onto the bird-feeder
hung from our drooping clothes line. Its feathers
are woodland green, Lorca green, dream-green.
But I’m not fooled by the redberry beak, brassy eye.
No surprise that the tits scatter into the buddleia.
Yelling at this intruder into Britain where beeches
have lost their copper and bleached yellow lies in heaps
is pointless—the bird ignores me, only flies off
when it’s certain it can’t prise out any peanuts.
The coal tits are soon back but, pretty as they are,
it’s no good pretending there isn’t quick-nipping,
a pecking order, that given the chance they’d behave
as badly as bankers, dictators, most of us.
But why bad-mouth our species? Last week
technicians slid me into a machine conceived
by humans to explore the body’s inner landscapes:
muscle boulders, maze of neck, the highway through
twiggeries of spine. Wrapped in insistent music
which shifted between high pitch and boom
it was as if I was encased in a huge thumping heart
or bedded in the cavern of a humpback whale
at the height of its song. And what is marvellous
is that recordings made in this strange place
reveal the sources of pain. Come to think of it,
thanks to our species, the kitchen has a music too
and we rely on its rhythms. Turn a tap and silver hishes
into the sink. Touch a button and the washing machine
tunes up to offer purr and whirr. Flick a switch
and the kettle begins a chant which crescendos
to a bubbling climax. I stir the tea in the pot, pour
and the tightness clawing my throat eases a little.