Thursday, June 18, 2015

Poetry Friday: Swallows by Leonora Speyer

Photo thanks to FreeImages.*

Swallows are much on my mind of late. They love our porches, view them as prime real estate.

We always let them build in front. Why? I don't know. The front of the house should be what we're more concerned about, right? The mess the birds leave behind, the cleaning up of the droppings. But a number of years back, when the swallows first decided that we were their own private Capistrano, I just couldn't say no to them. Instead, I called the girls over to the window, we watched a pair of swallows investigate this corner, then that one. We imagined their conversations: "Yes, dear, the corner you like is lovely, but think of the children. The corner I chose will be cozier, don't you think?" Then the swallows would start a family, and the girls and I followed the family's progress as babies appeared, cried and chirped, were fed, grew, flew the nest.

Every year, on the front porch, they build, they leave a mess, we clean up, they raise their brood, and then they're gone.

This year, a pair scoped out the back porch. I guess they heard it was a builder's market at the Edmisten house, and two corners on the front porch were already taken.

That's enough! Atticus and I cried. We'll have bird droppings all over the back porch! The grill! The lawn chairs! We are putting out foot (feet) down!

Oh, but they're crafty, those swallows. This is a determined pair, and once they had their eyes on a building site, they did not want to give up or move on. Every day, they start building. A little mud, some dried grass, dab, dab, dab. Atticus and I knock their foundation down, sweep it away. The swallows attempt some half-hearted dive bombing, but they really aren't as aggressive as everyone says. They swoop near us, but don't seem to have the heart to really attack their potential landlords. One day, I took the dog out back and I caught the swallows red-handed, flying away from their first mudding of the day. They both landed on the power line that crosses the backyard. I could tell they were trying not to look at each other, pretending they didn't know each other. Pssst, just ignore me for now ... maybe she'll think we're not together. We're not the ones trying to build that nest. That's right, Missy, just move along with the dog. Nothing to see here. 

That cemented my love for them.

We've swept some mud away the last couple of days, but I'm about to give up. They are too clever, too determined, too beautiful for me. I can't bear to thwart their plans anymore.

What I have is yours, swallows. I hope you will name one of your children after me.

Leonora Speyer

They dip their wings in the sunset,
They dash against the air
As if to break themselves upon its stillness:
In every movement, too swift to count,
Is a revelry of indecision,
A furtive delight in trees they do not desire
And in grasses that shall not know their weight.

They hover and lean toward the meadow
With little edged cries;
And then,
As if frightened at the earth’s nearness,
They seek the high austerity of evening sky
And swirl into its depth.


The round up this week is at A Year of Reading.

*In the public domain.


Faith said...


Carol Varsalona said...

Those swallows were intent on making your home theirs. Your story was a lovely lead-in to the poem.

jama said...

Your porches are definitely prime real estate for those swallows. We had a similar "issue" with an unidentifiable gray bird for a few years -- what a mess on the front porch, but it was fun to see the nestlings and then watch them eventually fledge. But this year, no nest and I admit, it feels lonely without them. Was it something we said? :) Enjoy your swallows!

tanita✿davis said...

Aww, Karen. You're as sweet as can be. What a beautiful poem.

Bridget Magee said...

I love your interpreted conversation for the swallows, Karen - too funny! We've hosted a few mourning doves on our porch over the years, but we just moved and have a brood of bats(!) on our front porch now! Not sure what to do about them yet... =)

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

What a wonderful post, Karen! I'm with you about not having the heart to tell them to move on. We had a pair of wrens build their nest between our front door and the wreath that hung on it. Made a mess of the wreath, we couldn't use our front door for weeks, but to me, it was worth it. Thank you for sharing that beautiful Swallows poem too.

Melvin B. said...

Are their names Gertrude and Heathcliff?

Carol said...

I love your story about the swallows on your porch(es) as much as I love the poem. Those last four lines are such a beautiful image.

Mary Lee said...

The poem captured swallow flight perfectly. And I say you should count yourself lucky to be chosen as a nesting site. (Of course, I don't have to deal with the mess, but still...)

Lindsay in NJ said...

From the sublime to the prosaic --
I'm glad you left the nest, both for the joy it's given you, and because it is illegal to tamper with the nests of native birds. I don't know at what point the law "kicks in" --it's possible it's OK to try to distract the birds from getting started on on their building. But, as you pointed out, they can be very persistent!
As for the reader who has bats, she might consider building a bat house for them. They are actually very useful creatures to have around as they keep the insect population in check. In a similar vein, I recently read that we should be encouraging opossums to live in our yards as they are actually very clean creatures and they eat the ticks that carry Lyme disease

Keri said...

Your hospitality cannot be denied. Lucky birds!

Tabatha said...

"a revelry of indecision"
What a lovely, spirited poem! Thanks, Karen.

Karen Edmisten said...

So happy to have so many swallow lovers here, and lovers of Speyer's beautiful poem. :)
Yes, Lindsay, in Nebraska, it's illegal to remove nests with eggs or young, and we would never do that, but it's acceptable to stop the building at the first sign.

Donna Smith said...

For a number of years we have had Phoebes build a nest on our front porch and have a new nest this year. The four young are getting too big to comfortably sit in the nest together, so I expect to see them gone in the next day or so. They do make a mess, but I cannot deny them a nice sheltered place to raise their young. And with all our owls and hawks out here, we do afford a safe shelter!
I enjoyed hearing about your swallow "tails", and combined with the poem, it was perfect for my morning of watching my own little bird family on the porch.

Karen Edmisten said...

Your Phoebes sound delightful, Donna. :)