MERULA (© Words by Paul F. Cowlan)

The old man by the river calls out,
points with his stick. And slugging dust from my boots
I stop,
to pad the shooting smart of blisters from the seams.

My pack sags;
taut paw on each shoulder,
a slack, black devil
digging its knotty toes into my back.

"Merula."
Cool fronds and sussurous water.
He gestures at a willow.
"Merula."

"Blackbird!" I say,
a smile dawning.

Pert, unassailable little saint of the tuneable halo.
And I peer into the leafage,
while the old man nods
and brings the stick back to his side.

Merula.

Jet and topaz.
Dead Latin gives us both a word
for this swart, sonsy angelet;
and we pause,
without introductions,
‘Old Age’ and ‘Not Quite Youth,’
by a bridge in a meadow,
somewhere on the long camino,
where sallows and the late sun hang their pennons
on a nest of jubilant, black Seraphim.