Poem 180 – Riverbank Sketches: The Great Crested Grebe

With oriental flare,
the grebe attracts attention.
Her sublime looks and slender
lines are carefully honed.
Exotic, not like other birds,
she owns her stage.
Checking all eyes are on
her, paparazzi ready,
she poses
                to applause.

I don’t get to see these so often as other birds, but always appreciate them when I do. So distinct, they demand attention.

© Ben Quant 2023
Bengt Nyman, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Poem 179 – Riverbank Sketches III: The Heron

Stood by his office window, the silent
partner waits, serene and straight.
Beneath his greying brows, two keen
and wizened eyes, gaze out.

He waits. And waits. And waits. Until
incisively he strikes; a single
dart with ballet dancer poise.
Replete, he struts away.

So often we almost walk past these ‘old men’ of the river without noticing they’re there. Such graceful birds.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 178 – Riverbank Sketches II: The Coot

New born, an angry punk
with shaven head, bright red,
shrill, urgent and demanding.

Nearby the parent swims.
acquired, grown-up, it hides its
defiant past beneath
a comic exterior
of bloated feet and drab
commuter dress of black
and white.

But stray too close and watch
the rebel wake. With gun
fire spray of clacking beak
and furied charge across
the water, this crazy street
fighter fights mean not clean,
the threats soon flee now fly.
Behind with arms aloft
it cries its battle cry,
uncouth obscenities
of bloody consequence
should you once more defy
its patch. Return? You’ll die…

The violence is only momentary,
the furious flapping soon fades,
replaced by a tentative cease-fire.
With peace restored you might
reflect the scene just seen
was more a case of Benny
Hill than Al Capone.
But my advice is keep
this to yourself. She’s watching you.

I’ve always enjoyed looking out for coffee since reading Arthur Ransom’s ‘Coot Club’. Living here, I’ve really got to know them, watching their life cycles and displays thoroughout the year. Bonkers and loveable.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Poem 176 – Riverbank Sketches I: The Cormorant

He holds his head up high
to look down upon us.
His curled haughty lips
suggest amusement.
I doubt he’s ever glimpsed
his own reflection in
the ripples – unless his smirk
disguises self-denial.

The cormorant’s smile caught my attention as we walked along the Lea yesterday. I’ve grown to love these comical birds, so graceful in the water, yet so clumsy looking in the air or on the bank wings outstretched to dry.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by JJ Harrison licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Poem 147 – November Walk

Four pm. November walk along
The Lea, the light is fading fast and all
Is dim. Like children’s plasticine the colours
Merge, the palate turns to shades of brown.
The sky blends with the gently lapping waters.
By naked trees who’ve shed, their colours bleed.
The air is mute, its voice is muffled, dull,
Only the Christmas lights dare interject.
From bankside windows, hope defiant flickers.

To end a period of Covid isolation, I took a walk along the River Lea this afternoon. I’ll never get bored of how the same stretch of water changes throughout the year. I didn’t think to take a photo, this one is from the same time last year, towards the river.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 118 – Queen of the Lake

In regal array the swan
Drifts serenely across the lake
With proud neck she stakes her claim
Outstretched wings proclaim her place
She rules all that she surveys
Usurpers swiftly subdued

In a bank holiday walk in Lea Valley we stopped to spend time with this majestic creature

© Ben Quant 2022