A Stray Thought

By Andrew McNeillie



I remember how the Foster brothers

trained their birds in stages:

Gobowen, Craven Arms, Frome,

before off they went to Nantes,

Avranches, St Malo, and Bordeaux.


It helped set their compasses for home

and never failed to fill the brothers’

hearts with wonder, every time they

made it to Llandudno – bright and pert,

as if straight out of the ark.


Then a few hapless ones would go astray,

blown off course by gales in the Channel

or hit by the peregrine. Others

more of my persuasion, settled,

disorientated, high on cathedral rooftops


and, peering down, opted for

the life they saw below, among

baguette crumbs and croissant flakes

under little metal chairs and tables

outside cafés where


lovers sat billing and cooing

and solitary souls on

a caffeine/Gauloise fix

gazed down the cobbled streets

at the spectre of liberty.


ANDREW MCNEILLIE kept racing pigeons in his misspent youth but now prefers to pass his time reading the poems of Baudelaire. His collected poems Striking a Match in a Storm is due from Carcanet in March 2022.


Art by Jemima Storey