This poem was exclusively written for Shorelines: the literary festival of the sea, Leigh on Sea, November 2013
A midnight pitch on cadent mud, the undulating seabed painted silver by the cannonball moon. Ten thousand crane-necked souls, ten thousand barking calls, twenty thousand cold-splayed claws; twenty thousand wings. Dogged by wind and tundra, they sleek across Siberia to winter with us. Two thousand five hundred miles; a pilgrimage, a mission, to settle feathers in our Estuary as they always have done, through time. Stoop-backed trees bend, elderly and stiffened by the years, reaching out a crutch of branch-arm lending an ear to the throng. The landscape is monochrome - a yearly welcome of grey to the birds, for a night-watch of clamour and blare. From the Arctic to our little hum of home, they will do this again, they will do this again, backlit by steelworks and ship lights, cosying up on mud and saltflat buoyed by samphire pillows and every year it plays the same. We welcome them, our tourist horde, with open wings and an open ticket, to come again next time.