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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 2, June 2013

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Peter Butler
London, England


The Lesser-Spotted Grumbok

in the bird section
in his neat hand
errors marked in the margins

He suggests it exists, though none have seen it: the Lesser-Spotted Grumbok (grumboticus minispoticus), the rarest of birds seen only in profile. His granddaughter thinks she might have.

A once-respected ornithologist, he is author of several elderly books in the Library, occasionally quoted by scholars, and noted for his research into the habits of the Hoopoe, with its distinctive crown of feathers, now rarely seen in our climate, the White-Rumped Sandpiper, Red-Backed Shrike and Greater Short-Toed Lark. Neighbors find his conversation limited, and the postman avoids ringing the bell. But he has his supporters.

when the curtain comes down
his right arm walks away
spilling tea with his left

Since the stroke, local bird lovers have started to gather each month on his lawn, or balcony, to report their sightings, although some shy away from his penetrative questioning. A sighting of Montagu’s Harrier, Glossy Ibis or Long-Billed Dowitcher both excite him and demand further input: exactly where, when, witnesses, evidence?

Later, occasional photographs of sightings sit by the television he rarely switches on. It’s Friday, and time for the carer to drop his granddaughter from school. And time to consider whether to suggest to her that the Lesser-Spotted Grumbok sunbathes in the Arctic, chirrups across eight octaves, and has acquired a profound understanding of Dickens.

pecking at his toes
the sparrow
perfectly safe

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