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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 4: July 2020
Tanka Prose: 233 words
+ Author’s Notes: 117 words
By Claire Everett

#SkylarkLivesMatter

 

and still you rise
in spite of it all...
skylark
lift me too
on the bones of your song

The skylark needs our help. We take up the cry, in the same way he heads cloudward with his bragging rights. Yet lately he battles the crosswind of modern farming and the winter sowing that renders the spring crop too dense for his mate’s terra firma nest. And if she should choose the warm grass, cheek to jowl with the grazing, the mower will surely come and ruin another clutch or lay it open to fox or weasel. No wonder numbers are falling swifter than the bird’s descent from his sunlit zenith of song.

but some say
don’t forget the scribble-lark
beloved artist
of the hedgerow
whose larder’s almost bare

And what about the corn bunting, the curlew, the whinchat? Names come thick and fast as a moot of starlings, the discourse morphing across the ether, here a denouement, there a foreshadowing.

Thoughts now of the pheasant, ferried here centuries ago from Eastern shores, a thing of beauty dismissed as rich man’s quarry, or two-a-penny roadkill. Then the rose-ringed parakeet, winged rainbow of the city, a joy to many, yet a curse to those who deem him a threat to the locals because he doesn’t belong here.

everywhere
the light touches...
and so it begins
the well-kept avenues
of a blackbird morning dusk

 

Author’s Notes:

Scribble-lark is the country name for the yellowhammer (which is technically from the bunting family), on account of the distinctive inked-on appearance of its delicate eggs. Its song is typically translated as “a-little-bit-of-bread-with-no-cheeeeeese!”

The skylark, yellowhammer, corn bunting, and whinchat are listed on the British Birds of Conservation Concern 4—the “red list.” Even the numbers of the blackbird, a familiar garden visitor, are on the decline in the larger cities and particularly London.

While the skylark is faring better in the North, its spectacular song flight (achieved by a form of circular breathing which allows the air to pass even through the bird’s hollow bones) is becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon in the South.

Claire Everett
Issue 4, July 2020

is the author of two tanka collections, twelve moons and The Small, Wild Places; and co-author of Hagstones: A Tanka Journey with Joy McCall, and Talking in Tandem with her husband, Tony Everett. In 2017, Claire joined the editorial panel for the Red Moon Anthology. She served on the editorial team for Take Five Best Contemporary Tanka (Volume 4, 2011), and in 2015 she edited the Tanka Society of America’s Members’ Anthology, Spent Blossoms. She served as tanka-prose editor for Haibun Today [from December 2011 thru September 2016], and as founding editor of Skylark Publishing and Skylark: the journal [from the inaugural issue in April 2013 thru the final issue, Summer 2019].

Claire is mum to five children and step-mum to two and likes nothing better than to be cycling through the Dales with Tony on their trusty tandem Tallulah, or walking on the North Yorkshire Moors.

 
 
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