Pied Wagtails

You’ve seen them. On roads, on rooftops, white and black
like x-rays of themselves, their long tails pumping
as if they worked the legs that run, then stop,
then run again, on an unending quest
to feed those meagre frames, their narrow beaks
speaking what sounds a lot like ‘chiswick…chiswick’.

As energy drains from the air, they go
proverbial, flock in their multitudes
(for warmth, for safety, for companionship?)
to the bare branches of the council trees,
making a winter miracle; birds for leaves.

Today they’re gone, leaving their splatterings
on paving slabs, a map of last night’s stars.

Mark Totterdell