There is a legend of two murmurations of Starlings warring above the City of Cork in Ireland in the 1600s –Starlings have never been known to war in flocks but they certainly do flight.

They were the Rorschach of the winter months,
the folding of sky-shadows,
of air-shoals pirouetting into the January nip,
swarms riding frosted winds,
silently testing the sky with their ink-magic.

Not ready for the tentacle gathering
that rose from the east
the heat of spring starlings
cloaked in oil slicks
needle beaked
and strong of claw.

The clash of murmurs
was whispered
in a rain of birds
as flightless feathers fell
in the war of winds.

Winter flew into spring,
black storms colliding with hot nights.
The murmurations twisted through one another
winter desperate to stay,
spring determined to arrive.

The people watch as feathers cloak them
farmers clutching hopeful seeds
children gazing with eager fingers
on buttoned jackets.
Which swarm will win this war?

But the birds that come with the sun
are always victorious – the winter flock is tired
their wings have beaten cold into existence
it is time for them to leave.

Beaten and flight-sore the winter murmuration
rides its ribbon away
as spring’s flock swoops into longer days
and brighter skies,
as farmers test the warmth of soil
and children release that first coat button.

‘January’ from the collection A Year of Nature Poems by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd (Wide Eyed Editions, 2019). Text copyright Joseph Coelho, 2019

Watch Joseph read his poem here.