It was my mother taught me to watch
blood-breasted stonechats on a barbed-wire fence,
to listen to the mournful song of a linnet,
a meadow pipit's pseeping alarm.
I couldn't count how many I've caught,
ringed, sexed, measured and weighed
but I'll always remember the first time
in the woods beyond Skibbereen,
when I opened a mist net at dawn,
held a goldcrest hammocked between
finger and thumb, a rosebud in my palm.
Olive nape, yellow crown, eyes
black and glistening as Kilkenny marble.
I held my breath, lest I harm her,
turned my hand so she lay on her back.
She settled as if lulled into a trance.
I opened the cage of my fingers --
a heartbeat, and she was gone.