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.

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