and you, little bird – Lisa Reily

tiny bodies rest on air, swift
above the sea, distant sapphire,
sparkling mint, and lime; specks of mud
routinely and lovingly placed,
one thousand trips to-and-fro
create your home; tidy, complete,
on the roof of our balcony

we watch you speed, thrust
into your miniature doorway
to little brown-and-white faces,
black beaks open, the door to your home
so small, your body squeezed inside;

open sea silver in the evening,
the red-tiled roof upon which you sit
amid olives and plump figs (each day we wonder,
will we still be here when they ripen),
the old grey tortoise in the garden, and you,
little bird, your sweet voice and gentle presence,
your droppings on our balcony railing
a small price to pay, a holiday gift,

and above, your tiny body, your perfect nest,
a clay masterpiece;

until one day she arrives
when we are not home, mops
the balcony of dust,
lights a smoke, sucks in the view;
our sea breeze she strangles
with white paper lanterns,
the railing you decorated
she wipes to clean perfection;
when we return, your home is gone

only space
where you once lived;

a broom handle against the wall,
her stick to beat your hard work away;
a brown piñata above her head
that she must be rid of—
hit hit hit that unwelcome thing down;
your heart work swept into a dustpan,
hidden in a garbage bag;

tonight, crisp white lanterns glow
on our clean balcony, her cigarette, half-smoked,
rests in a bird-shaped ashtray,

while you fly free, and homeless
on the wind

Lisa ReilyLisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. She is now a budget traveller with two bags, one laptop and no particular home. You can find out more about Lisa at