But it’s diluted with sky, not water,
the aerial plankton on which they sup.
Our solitary pipistrelle flickers
over her chosen suburban quarter,
echo-locating, to siphon it up.
It nourishes birds as well as bats –
high-flyers that feed on the wing,
swifts, house-martins – this floating gruel
of hymenoptera, midges and gnats,
thunderbugs, beetles, aphids, flies,
moths, mosquitoes, and flying dots
almost too small to be worth naming.
Some of it swirls at a lower level –
a broth of midges over a pool
at dusk or a simultaneous hatch
of mayflies boiling up from Lough Neagh:
swallow-fodder, and also a splotch
to plaster on any passing windscreen,
though even at speed there’s never so much
as of yore; bad news for the food-chain,
but somehow ‘où sont les neiges d’antan’
sounds too noble a note of dole
for a sullying mash of blood and chitin.
(And we can’t hear what the bats are screaming.)
by Fleur Adcock
from Glass Wings
publisher: Bloodaxe, Newcastle, 2013