#hammeredpoetry is back, and now accepting prose entries as well as poetry.
Prompt 8: Story-telling and the Power of ThreeAnd you thought #HammeredPoetry was dead...
Story Telling and the Power of Three
I know I've said it before, but I think there should be more poems that tell stories out there. I'm thinking lots of decent concrete imagery, a plot to invest in, a couple of characters, and some kind of resolution. The key to telling a story in poem form is sparsity. If you thought you had to pick your words carefully in prose, you have to be minutely precise on a poem. Each one counts. And you still need to think about the sonic elements: metre, alliteration, assonance....
I want poems worthy of Medieval bards and Anglo-Saxon scops. I want adventure and heroism, maybe a run-in with the gods, or a doomed romance, or a trip to the underworld. Something epic, in the classical sense of the word.
I also want to see the Power of Three.
Three, as they quite rightly say, is the magic number. Things in stories always come in threes, and the stakes get raised each time. Think about Be
We've been looking after some friends' felines while they've been travelling in New Zealand. They send us texts such as "sitting on a beach in the sunshine drinking beer. Our lives are so hard ". Meanwhile we have become very attached to their cats.
Two days ago I was washing up and gazing out the kitchen window. The young ginger male, fittingly called Loki, was stalking through the overgrown lawn, thinking he was soooooo camouflaged.
And the next time I glanced at him he was batting at something in the grass, and that thing was feebly waving its wings in response.
Now while I doubted that Loki has the agility to bring a bird down by himself (he struggles to jump on the kitchen counter to gobble leftovers without sliding off or scrabbling around), I nonetheless assumed the bird was a goner. Loki has brought in a bird before, and that bird had no head. So I took my time wandering around the house looking for the right cardboard box for the bird to die in without so much as running at Loki to shoo him away.
But having found the perfect shoebox, and emptied all the ancient halloween decorations out of it (the glow in the dark skeletons are still homeless and scattered around our living room), I sauntered outside to remove the cat from the situation, pick up the bleeding near-corpse of the poor bird in tissue paper, and ease its last hours in this world.
It turned out that Loki had done a really bad job of attacking this bird. It was clinging to the grass with all its might and it wasn't even bleeding. I placed it in the box, where it lay panting on its chest, with its eyes closed, for some hours. I still assumed it was going to die at this point: that Loki had probably punctured its chest with a bat of his claws, and the internal injury, not to mention the stress of being shut in a box, would do for it.
Loki is convinced he's an evil super-villain.
But I raided my cupboard for things-that-birds-might-eat, gave it selection of mixed seed cereal topper, porridge oats, and blueberries, ransacked the kitchen for a suitable water vessel and finally settled on a miniature carved wooden coffee spoon, and left the swift to snooze. Neither C or I or bird watchers, but we googled around and finally decided we had a swift.
By that afternoon the swift was opening its eyes. By the middle of the night it had revived enough to flutter around its box. In the early hours of the morning it even emitted two short squeaks. Whenever we checked the box it would freeze, and stare at us. Apparently it wasn't interested in the seeds or blueberries, and it had knocked over its water repeatedly, but it seemed energetic enough.
It was at this point that C suggested we name it. I said, "if we name it, it will die!" (but in my head I was thinking Morpheus....)
We shut up the cats in the spare room and decided to give the swift a test fly. I picked it up and it gripped onto my fingers. As I turned it towards the back door, it slowly turned its head so it could keep one eye on me even while it gazed towards freedom. For a long time it didn't even try to fly. Then after several minutes, my arms aching from holding them out, it started to flutter, and launched itself into the air - and promptly clattered to the kitchen floor. It scrabbled uselessly for a minute, then attempted to flutter again, but something was obviously not quite right.
Loki attempting to look endearing while shut in the spare room.
It was while out on a 2-hour cycle that C googled swifts and discovered that, not only can swifts not feed from the ground (did you know they eat, sleep and mate all while flying?) but they don't even eat seeds, they eat insects, and they drink falling raindrops. Nature, man. If we wanted to keep it hydrated we should feed it water from a cotton bud and to help it recover we should take it to a rescue centre as soon as possible.
Now by this point I was feeling (a) really smug about bringing a swift back from the brink of doom out of the goodness of my heart, and (b) rather attached to my pet swift (whisper it: Morpheus). I liked its black eyes fringed in pale grey, its sooty feathers, its narrow lozenge body, its long, curved wings, the way its claws gripped my fingers when I picked it up. And I had saved its life, rescued it from a giant ginger beast cat! I had fantasies about keeping it forever, its injuries never quite healing enough for it to be safe in the wild; of building an aviary in the garden for it to flutter about in and watch its bird friends flutter past every spring and autumn. It wouldn't be perfect, but it was better than dying alone in the wild, unable to fly.
Swift: secret code name, Morpheus
But I had to face facts. Even when I fed it water on a cotton bud, it wouldn't drink, and how was I supposed to catch it insects? I didn't know if its injuries needed attention, or if they would heal by themselves. In fact my knowledge of swifts extended to the contents of the RSPB website and wikipedia.
The rescue centre we chose was a 45 minute drive away. I had the swift's box on my knee, a coffee in one hand, and I was clutching SATnav on my phone with the other. In hindsight this was not an ideal situation, but by the time we were driving it was too late.
At the rescue centre we were greeted by about five yapping dogs. A lady led us to a garden shed where she had a variety of animals in cages: a hedgehog, a sleeping owl, lots of pigeons, a baby rabbit, and what might have been a possum. This was the most mysterious of all. Possums are not native to the UK.
What even is this?
Obviously used to handling swifts, the lady picked up Morpheus with none of the delicacy I had been attempting in all our interactions, and turned the bird over for inspection. "He's a little underfed. Probably lost his energy and became grounded. We'll feed him up on meal worms for a few days and then release him."
She put him unceremoniously in a plastic tank, handed back my shoebox with its woeful debris of uneaten seeds and berries, and that was that. My swift is a nameless swift once again, and I am just an okay human who took very slightly more interest in caring for a random possibly-injured bird than I might have done.