You wheel magnificent into the fray
dive, spear, soar, swerve away
from the thieving gang to serve your young
on the basalt cliffs where they nest in the sun
waiting and watching the war you wage,
learning the art of focused rage,
of switch, reshape, plunge,
zigzag through swells to kill in shoals,
so agile the art of keel and roll,
of a dance turned to fight,
of sardine pierced on a spike.
No matter the weather, the will to win,
the dazzling thrust of body and limb –
like Cleopatra, the power-lust,
the azure eyes contoured in kohl
head alert, in full control.
Like Cleopatra the gilded crown,
the shapely curves, the hint of down,
no sign of the battle, you stun and destroy,
queen of air and sea, subversive your ploy
sharp angled the thrust, the knife in the flesh,*
assassin instinct to keep your head high.
Yet on land you stumble, hop ungainly to your nest
the only place of rest.
Gannets spend most of their time at sea, coming to land only to nest on crags by the coast to lay their eggs and nurture their young. They are awkward on land, often stumbling. Male and female Gannets are similar with their white body, black tipped wings and tail, the crown on their heads a golden colour and their eyes blue and contoured by black skin. It has been said that you can distinguish the female from the male by the line running down the front of the leg and onto the toes of the webbed feet: the line is yellow green on the male bird, bluish green on the female. Females dive deeper – up to 15 metres – for longer lengths of time than the male. Even if this bird can fly up to 65 kms/hr, its flying muscles are under-developed in comparison with those of other sea birds, which means it labours to take off from the water, frantically beating its wings and using the wind to get lift-off. It dives spectacularly, up to a speed of 100 kms/hr; it’s nostrils are located inside the mouth and can be closed in water.
*The notorious Cleopatra of renowned fame is said to have killed her sister and two brothers.