TP logo

| Books | Music | Events | New work | Contact & ordering

Lay for the Day
13th May

The birthday of my first grandchild, Otis Nelson Butterfield-Kendall. This was written for his blessing ceremony.

Poem for Otis

Look at the starlings tonight round Trafalgar Square,
on a night like this near the autumn equinox

exploding in waves against the sombre sky,
in waves of who knows how many tens of thousands.

You were born in a moment like this.
How may souls burst with you into the air?

Angular, precise, a piece of the puzzle,
each hundred-thousandth body locks exactly into its place in the world:

but who can follow the course of one of those flickering specks
swept and whirled in the waves of its fellows?

How light and hard, soft and dry and bony is a bird in the hand,
the bright eye and the stiff gape evoking the lizard ancestor.

Perhaps from this piece we could work out the shape of the next
above and below it, insect, twig or bird; then perhaps the shape of the world.

But you, being human, are different.
You belong everywhere and nowhere

and these shapes are not locked: a baby hand
that has barely brushed the surface of its capability,

a speechless mouth and weightless mind without past or future,
whirled shrieking into the air. And this chaotic world

begins to be born again in you and takes on order
piece by piece, and we gather, looking into the world

you are shaping, to see that peace prevails.
The starlings whirl shrieking into the sky,

the stars whirl silently into their places.
They are waiting on the world you make.


John Gibbens
from Becoming Light


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar

| Books | Music | Events | New work | Contact & ordering