• africmcglinchey

talking of secretaries

Updated: May 24


In the long grasslands,

a secretary bird, all flap and stumble.

What you gonna do today?


Heaves legs of wood

and wings of sail—

the scale comical.


I dunno, what d’you wanna do?

As if body parts came

from other creatures.

My girl says, Hey gorgeous,

and the bird pounds the ground

with heft feet.

plunges its beak into the earth


resurfaces, flips,

a spinning top motion,

twists like a Swan

Lake tutu

dancer in drag,

and into the air soars

a mouse

green bundle of scrap,

its last breath

a shock of dirt and batter.

And my girl and her fella


in the magenta-sapphire light

of late afternoon,

shooting slow motion

the chop.

And she shoots the secretary bird,


in a tree

in a moon

I dunno, what do you wanna do?

And a small herd

of elephant drifts by,

one scarred pregnant female.

And my girl shoots

way past the point

of available light.

And into the dusk, a jackal,

and down to the pan,

a pair of warhog, mud-rollicking.

It becomes a game, their tails sticking out.

And my girl shoots a rock,

which rises

to become a male lion, eye on her

and her fella, gearing up

with a tripod,

extra-long lens under his arm,

stealth to the baobab,

vlei grass tickling bare legs,

while she sits, licking sun-

cracked lips, shooting

take after

take, of this,

panoramic, far,


from any pandemic.

I am indebted to the Arts Council for funding a project to write poems during, but not necessarily about, the lockdown, and to share them on social media, the most immediate and direct form of communication at this time. The poems are responses to stories given to me. This story belongs to my daughter, Micaela Hamilton, a wildlife documentary maker in Zimbabwe. Thanks Micaela - yours is the best lockdown experience!

Photos courtesy of Micaela Hamilton and Neil Fairlie.

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+353 (0)86 3633567

Castlefreke, Clonakilty, Co. Cork

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