Small, querulous voices
among waves’ quiver and heave
where they hide themselves
in shadow and light of their feathers.
As though only visiting this world
for insects and crustaceans,
they live on hinges of moments,
riding currents and tides.
Whirling on the surface of a lochan
like a tottim they create a vortex
to draw up creatures which they snap-peck
one by one, quick as chopsticks.
Males incubate eggs whose shells are dense
with legend as if each chick grew to fill its own map
inscribed by its mother. Females can’t do
with running a nesthold, preferring to make
a head-start on the 16 thousand mile vaege
from Shetland to Galapagos.
The Shetland dialect word for the Red-necked Phalarope is peerie-deuk, a little clockwork duck. A tottim is a spinning top. A vaege is a journey by sea.
Rebecca Gethin had two pamphlets published in 2017 and new work appears in various magazines and anthologies. She has been a Hawthornden Fellow and undertook a residency at Brisons Veor. Messages was a winner in the Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition and is available as a hand- made stitched limited edition. Vanishings is forthcoming from Palewell Press.