In Her Element, by Sally Barnes

Up on a chimney pot, high as a cliff, a cormorant stretches her wings, hanging them out to dry in the nickel plated rays of early sunshine.  She is indifferent to the building site behind her, where a meteor seems to have fallen between the engine houses and the gas works, gouging a giant hole, scattering iron, manganese and coppery pink brick dust.  The cormorant furls her wings across her snake breast, turns her zirconium eye to the squabbling geese on the canal far below. Their territory measured, they dip their heads in and out, sending drops of water rolling like mercury over their feathered backs before sliding back into the tungsten depths.  Above the blackened walls of the old granary, exploding with buddleia nourished by acid rain and mongrel gases, the cormorant queen notes a man on an oak bench, spinning bicycle wheels, a coot snatch a twig for a nest, a narrow-boat piled with firewood, a silver birch bedded in a froth of new green; herb Robert, sticky Willie, feverfew.  In the budding alders she sees a crow mobbed by two magpies flashing cobalt, titanium. Though she is kin to all of these things, none of them interest her. What holds her attention is out of sight, swimming in the heavy metal soup of the canal.


About claire collison

Writer, photographer, creative facilitator, and breast cancer survivor, I am currently Artist in Residence at the Women's Art Library (WAL) My first novel was a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize, and my short stories and poetry have appeared in print and online. In 2015 I was awarded second place in the inaugural Resurgence Prize, the world's first eco poetry competition, judged by Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. This blog began as a space for words generated on my walking/writing workshops at the Mary Ward centre in Bloomsbury - Writing the City (WTC). WTC has since grown to include many other venues, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Barbican, the River Rom, Southwark Woods, Aylesbury Estate, and most recently, as part of Walking Women festival, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. I have worked with Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, as the recipient of the first Max Reinhardt Literacy Award, designing teaching resources; and for The Photographers' Gallery, helping school children develop visual literacy as part of 'Seeing More Things'. If you would like me to design a workshop or walk for you, please be in touch!
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