The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 10 no. 2


Peter Redgrove

Lichen Roof


It could be the ancient
  and lost biscuit of life, the lichen
    that never grows where the air
is polluted, the seagulls return
  again and again to pluck those
    bright orange fronds from the
brick-chinks, they neck and feed
  and nest on the ridge-poles of the
    sloping roofs, in the chimney-angles
this confection grows out of the wind,
  out of a nothing, feeds on nothing,
    spreads in circles like sliced fruit,
orange circular feasts,
  is always availing,
    the round sea-smell
which drops these beings like coinage;
  they arrive invisibly in the wind,
    materialize on the roofs
in round flat fortresses;
  all the seagulls have one voice,
    are a one person in feathered white
who miaous as he glides
  down the air-streets;
    in the sound I see
his fish-oil engines,
  his single beak, the singular
    color-of-the-lichens neb:
The solo gliders are his vocal chords,
  his vocalizations and his wind-pipe,
    and his spinning shit-balls
smashing across my friend's tweed cap:
  a species person,
    the one person
in many gulls
  that mountaineer the lichen pistes, scratch up
    their gratis feasts.