Ann Pilling

Novelist and Poet

Dunlins (for Michael Longley)

They might have gone already, that grey line
which separates dull sky from duller grass
could be a thread of mist, but it is water
a ribbon fringed with chattering migrants.
They fly up as we edge nearer and go east
in a single streak towards St Barnabas,
skirt the campanile then swarm back
in the shape of a wide stole,
cloud yellow flecked with black
like drift from a bonfire. After that first wing surge
they are silent, they have stopped over our heads
frozen in air, watching the conductor. But we can see
the child's tick of each bird continuously flapping
to keep its position in the dance,
as in a poem, where every word must work
to earn its place.

(from Home Field)

Click here to view a YouTube clip Dunlins Landing


On Being Sixty

The balloons have drifted slowly up to the top of the house
where they nudge the ceiling and hover
like people waiting for a lift to open.
On Saturday they were full to bursting,
fat fruits ripe at the year's turning,
But they sag now.

Above our roof the sky's that tingling blue
of late October, homing birds etched black
in little lines, each cloud hand-picked.

They are bumping the rafters now
the sky's the thing
to be out there, to be carried across the world
on the thin, fine air, to get strength again
be more balloon than they were before.

Let me open the window.
One more push and we'll be away.

(from Home Field)


I have narrowed it to a plain place
less talk, less folk.

Today I watched a man walk down a field
along a rope of wall, its stones
still hugged by melting snow that made
fish spines on the emerging green.

I have learned about finches and moons,
walked only by stars, marvelling
how their still, cold light felt warm to me.

The frost opens old cuts but here
I have no past and the land
arched between that life and this
is generous, like the speckled breasts
of these spring-hungry thrushes.

from "The Dancing Sailors"
March 2010

Walking with George

With George all puddles are approached
with reverent slowness and the feet applied
perfectly flat for biggest splash. It seems
a dirty gum-stuck pavement is preferred
to whorling Yorkshire slabs steam-cleaned to honey
by men in orange hats. With chewing gum
his shoes can measure their bionic powers
and he his own self may decide which blob's
America, and which the sea. In Bedford Gardens
a hot sky sizzles cobalt blue, roped thick
with creamest blossom, garlanding the street
like bunting. Small birds strafe the avenue
with twigs and pelt the ear with song. His small
egg-speckled nose lifts high, sniffing the air. This white
could be anything: snow, icing, last night's duvet
pulled over our heads to make a dragon's cave.
His hand in mine is flower-soft, he leads me
with shining face tip-tilted to the bright
enormous sky down paths I never knew
before this day, or thought I had forgotten.

(from Home Field)

Click here to view a photo of Ann with George