Birds of Firle: A Woman of Eighty Builds a New Life, Free of a Forty-Year Marriage

Rook Looks to Spring by Tanya Shadrick

Rook and human,
all through the dark days
and nights of winter.

Bird and woman.
Fight to stay; trees bend
in the wind and rain.

Bird unsteady on the branch.
Human resents new house.
How to make a home?

As always
Spring arrives.

Bird is busy
Twigs in beak to chosen spot
To-ing fro-ing, placing here and there.

Inspection. Satisfaction.
Soon a nest awaits new life.

Much to do in human house.
As with bird, renewing, replacing.
Hither, thither.

Green plants to this nest gathered.
Inspection. Satisfaction.

Human watches Rook across the road.
Here at last.
New life.

Editor’s note by Tanya Shadrick, founder of The Selkie Press: In the very last pages of my memoir The Cure for Sleep, the Late-Waking Life of the subtitle becomes my mother’s as well as mine. Like so many women of her time and place, she has never been encouraged to share her experience through art or writing. A year now into her new life, I invited her to risk her words for Birds of Firle – this decade-long and collective exercise in writing of grief and hope as the things with feathers. This poem is her beautiful contribution.


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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