It is spring and the bittern is booming.
He lets the marsh breeze blow across his throat’s bottle top
and his voice shakes the reeds. He is vast,
the guardian spirit of wetland; marsh harriers are his eyes,
red deer his legs, the reed bed is his monotonous body.
He is a god of frogs, a father to thousands of warbling voices.
His damp body has been sacrificed, fens
drained for potatoes, lettuces and flowers;
but he lives on, renewed by believers’ prayers.
We enter the stilt-legged Temple of Bittern.
Solemn worshippers scan slowly. We mutter praises and make
the love gesture of staring. Bittern appears,
gathered into the form of a bird: a drab heron amber-
mottled with jewels, pulsing with secrets.
Minty green beak points up, a raised blade, some ritual.
The green reed tips are forcing up among the old brown.
High up, a lone swift cuts across blue sky.