A poet friend died, declining at speed,
true to the way she sang as she whisked
around the garden or walked alone,
striding fast up and down the folded hills.
I planned a poem, a mark of recognition.
My elegy would praise her energetic life
beside the white and curving shore, a hymn
to movement, breath. A curlew flew in,
mournfully musical, bound up with death
and clouds drifting dark across the sun.
Yeats wrote of curlews crying in the wind
and Dylan Thomas called them sad women
calling on the moon to help conception.
I wanted my own images, not homage
to the great, or clods of tired-out words.
But the curlew declined to leave the poem
however firmly I refused to write of bubbling,
liquid notes, however hard I tried to stop
the serenading of the fading moon, the telling
of lost pleasures, sea-taste, thistle’s touch.
Once my friend had been led through rushes
to estuary currents, moonlit, consoling,
the poem could drift away in tide-flow.
I read it through, came to the final word
with my skin prickling. It was ‘curlew’.
Curlew Moon by Camilla Lambert was Highly Commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2018) judged by Roger Elkin.