Russian Bit Player

Ann Vickery


“Mutton birds or short-tailed shearwaters are in the middle of an annual migration from Siberia to the south east coast of Australia to breed. But this year, many of them are not making the distance,” ABC Bush Telegraph (14 November 2013)


Pushing through the wind, spirit finds weather.

Sea steeping with panic at too much sky.

Unfeasted, the mutton birds deck the beach

rioting among trunks of kelp. Starved at

the end-point of love, their climatic passage

beats out high Siberian drama. We are all gulags

aren’t we?    Migratory cycles

of need, the energy and failure of the body.

Listening only when the expected comes unstuck,

deaf to the incoming tides. You reverse all charge,

rehearsing calm over the day’s ragged events,

a finetuned lament of self, adagio mia down the phone line.

Feathers pile thick on the shore, some of them mine

although I fail to recognise them.

Out-moulted passion, pastoral gifts of the said.

As are those birds, so are you to me.


Ann Vickery is the author of Leaving Lines of Gender: A Feminist Genealogy of Language Writing (2000) and Stressing the Modern: Cultural Politics in Australian Women’s Poetry (2007). She recently edited Poetry and the Trace (2013) and the ‘Masque’ issue of Cordite Poetry Review.

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