This poem was inspired by the 2021 Mixtape: Writers of Colour Audio Anthology, published in April 2022. I listened over and over to the beautiful pieces on those recordings. Watching the birds on the cliff edge of the west coast of Scotland one morning, I suddenly realised that what I was seeing – a natural ecosystem – was exactly what I’d felt while listening: writers telling their stories within an ecosystem of support, appreciation, and acceptance despite the wild diversity of voices. We all can so easily feel we’re on the edge of things, different from those around us (whether that’s generational, cultural, or in any number of smaller ways). But despite what we’re often made to feel, we also have a right to articulate our own place within this world around us.
Its Song is Returned
I sit near the cliff edge. Below, the sea
swells onto rocks; boulders wait
for low tide, the water tinting
the world sky blue, as if looking up
to sun. I peer over the edge, tip
my body to examine a round black form
– bird-shaped, stone-shaped – and watch
for movement. The water foams; it raises
its head from beneath a wing. Behind
me the forest floor is covered
with a fine dusting of bluebells; the violet
against green inverts the air, they nod
without my turning. Below, the bird preens,
plucks at an invisible enemy on its breast.
Between us, the cliffside is wrapped
in hawthorn and bramble. Would it catch me
if I fell – if I jumped? Thin as a wafer
in this wind, I close my eyes and hear
the birds sing – one calls in its language
and its song is returned, as different
as they are. Now a swallow wings
from land to cliff and another lifts, taut
as a kite. Almost still, terns sail the invisible
draughts that loop up from the water’s edge.
Their bodies hang together mid-air – holding
their position, outstretched wing to wing, flying.
Marjorie Lotfi’s writing has won competitions, been published widely and performed on BBC Radio 4. She is a winner of the inaugural James Berry Prize, and her first collection is forthcoming with Bloodaxe Books in 2023. Refuge, poems about her childhood in revolutionary Iran, is published by Tapsalteerie Press.
@marjorielotfi on both Twitter and Insta, and marjorielotfi.com