The Belltower Ghosts
Bruebach’s early medieval church belfry doesn’t have bats,
I’m willing to bet,
But this year it does have as pretty contradictory a bunch of bedfellows
As one might imagine:
Kestrels with an early-bird baby taking to its first flight
A full month or more early, perhaps thanks to global warming,
About as warily as Wilbur and Orville Wright –
Stayed airborne only about the same time too
Before a not-too-controlled a crash landing
On the church’s steep tiled roof
Then slipping and sliding down and off it
Like some virgin ski-jumper
Just making it to the top of our tree
To the loud rebukes of its mother wheeling above
Admonishing this poor performer
With the Kestrel equivalent of a frown and a sternly wagging finger
Whilst the pigeons crowed their derisions from a safe distance
Fatally forgetting that once he wins his wings there’ll be no such place.
Still somewhat ungainly, he barely made it back to the belfry.
At their customary eleven-thirty
The unseemly wails of a pair of Screech Owls
Heralded the arrival of these graceful ghosts,
Reverse silhouetted, their long wings
Scoring stark, white arcs against a squid-ink sky.
I wondered why God had given one of his more beautiful creations
One of his all-time worst voices: a real discordant, ear-rattling rasp:
A bit like having Claudia Schiffer
Speak like a Scouser
And swear like a trooper –
Perhaps he’d knocked off early from saint school
And left the job of finishing off
To some trainee angel suffering from
A long, Good Friday liquid-lunch date
With a bunch of cute seraphim.
Also, why handicap a night-hunter
With those great white wings:
A dead give-away to intended prey?
Maybe he was evening up the odds
Or embodying his legendary sense of fair-play.
They circled the tower together the once,
Then one peeled-off this close-formation flying display
Like some Spitfire closing in for the kill,
And shot straight into the belfry,
Via an aperture that seemed all too small
While its wingman mate did another tour of the tower
Before streaking on in.
Three Kestrels and two Screech Owls
Using the same entry and exit
To a space barely six metres square
Seems uncomfortable, even improbable
(Or in this case improba-bell, if you’ll forgive the pun) ,
Yet they appear to have come to
Some kind of an accommodation with each other
And with loud, peeling bells on the hour, half and quarter.
But if push comes to shove as it just well might,
My money’s on the belltower ghosts in white.