Birds of Firle: Wings of Desire by Neil Gower & Anja Steinig

Flügel by Anja Steinig & Neil Gower

I often take feathers home. When I feel a deep wish, I entrust it to a feather,
which I hang on the grating of my balcony door. From there it can carry
my wish to heaven. 
Even stronger than a feather for me
is the wooden wing my lover sent me at the beginning of lockdown.
I hold it in my sleep every night.
–– Anja Steinig

A two-handed tale from new lovers
kept apart by Coronavirus

When Goldelse…

…pings into my phone on a Sunday evening I know Anja is nearly home. It is our sign. She sends a photo of the winged figure, snapped through the windscreen while waiting at the lights.

Goldelse by Anja Steinig

In fifteen minutes she will pull up Falckensteinstraße. It will take her five more minutes to carry the bags and the leftover food up to the apartment, then another fifteen to find a parking space this side of the Görlitzer Park and to walk home. After unpacking, she will shower off the weekend’s work and the Witzke earth. This week, a few kilometres into the journey home, she stopped to fill a bag with elderflowers that grow beneath the darkest night sky in Germany. These must be placed in a large bowl of water with sliced lemons, to steep overnight in readiness for making jelly with her daughters tomorrow.

Only when all this is done can we relax and prepare the risotto. We each stand a phone beside the stove and begin as we do each week: with a smile of tender longing, two glasses of robust red raised to screens across a locked down continent, reminding us of January in Palermo. Where we knew.

–– Neil Gower

Neil Gower for Birds of Firle

Here in Kreuzberg…

…the residents put everything on the street that is no longer needed. They know that somebody will take it away. On a warm summer evening, a walk through the neighbourhood can throw up many treasures. One comes with new pots and books or with old registration cards of a Berlin library (what I am writing on now). These cards represent so many stories: Not just those of their books, but also the stories of the people who borrowed them. But that must be at least 30 years ago.

As diverse as the treasures of the streets are the inhabitants of all ages, nationalities and preferences. There are also many strange birds living here, some shimmer like birds of paradise. Some lose feathers, like one I found the other day that does not help with flying, but is more for display. It is good to imagine it when it was speeding with its owner through the nights of Kreuzberg.

I often take feathers home. When I feel a deep wish, I entrust it to a feather, which I hang on the grating of my balcony door. From there it can carry my wish to heaven.

Even stronger than a feather for me is the wooden wing my lover sent me at the beginning of lockdown. I hold it in my sleep every night. My great love – who lives 1000 kilometres away from Berlin – also has one. We send each other pictures of these wings, each to each, to remind ourselves dass wir zusammen sind. Mit unseren Flügeln können wir gemeinsam überall hinfliegen*

–– Anja Steinig

Anja Steinig for Birds of Firle

* …we are together. With our wings we are able to fly together anywhere.

Neil Gower is a Welsh-born graphic artist and poet. He has two sons and lives in Lewes, at the heart of the South Downs, where he runs on chalk.

Anja Steinig founded her design practice, Studio F, in 2009. She also teaches typography and graphic design at several universities. For nine years she has been a board member of the Art Directors Club Germany, heading its editorial section. She has two daughters and lives in Kreuzberg, Berlin.


Birds of Firle is a single edition book by Tanya Shadrick being posted sequentially to 100 collaborators around the world, inviting responses to the idea of Grief and Hope as the things with feathers. Each recipient spends a few days with the book, before returning it with a hand-written letter and other small artefacts.

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