The Year We Married Birds

Liz Berry's poem of "winged romance" was inspired by a Wolverhampton kingfisher

That year, with men turning thirty
still refusing to fly the nest,
we married birds instead.
Migrating snow buntings
swept into offices in the city,
took flocks of girls for Highland weddings.
Magpies smashed jewellers’ windows,
kites hovered above bridal shops,
a pigeon in Trafalgar Square learnt to kneel.
Sales of nesting boxes soared.
Soon cinemas were wild as woods in May
while restaurants served worms.
By June, a Russian kittiwake wed
the Minister’s daughter, gave her two
freckled eggs, a mansion on a cliff.
My own groom was a kingfisher:
enigmatic, bright. He gleamed in a metallic
turquoise suit, taught me about fishing
in the murky canal. We honeymooned
near the Wash, the saltmarshes
booming with courting bittern.
When I think of that year, I remember best
the fanning of his feathers
on my cheek, his white throat,
how every building, every street rang
with birdsong. How girls’ wedding dresses
lifted them into the trees like wings.


From Brittle Star.

Extracted from The Best British Poetry 2011, edited by Roddy Lumsden, published by Salt Publishing.

Genre: Literary