Lichen roof

Lichen Roof
Peter William Redgrove (1932-2003)

It could be the ancient
and lost biscuit of life, the lichen
that never grows where the air
is polluted, the seagulls return
again and again to pluck those
bright orange fronds from the
brick-chinks, they neck and feed
and nest on the ridge-poles of the
sloping roofs, in the chimney-angles
this confection grows out of the wind,
out of a nothing, feeds on nothing,
spreads in circles like sliced fruit,
orange circular feasts,
is always availing,
the round sea-smell
which drops these beings like coinage;
they arrive invisibly in the wind,
materialize on the roofs
in round flat fortresses;
all the seagulls have one voice,
are a one person in feathered white
who miaous as he glides
down the air-streets;
in the sound I see
his fish-oil engines,
his single beak, the singular
color-of-the-lichens neb:
The solo gliders are his vocal chords,
his vocalizations and his wind-pipe,
and his spinning shit-balls
smashing across my friend's tweed cap:
a species person,
the one person
in many gulls that mountaineer the lichen pistes, scratch up
their gratis feasts.