Muntjac Deer at Freeland 

(Quadrant 2015)


The despairing voice cries

‘kill the lot’, as we hush

to watch a Muntjac step lightly

onto the lawn, its curved back

a delicate question mark.

                        ‘They gorge

themselves’, the tart voice persists

as we’re held by the sight

of this miracle of calm,

so close, so close.


(Of evolutionary interest

for their chromosome count,

descendants of escapes

from Woburn Abbey circa 1925,

these ancient orientals

have joined our herd and increased–

two have actually been seen near Belfast,

obviously with human help).


‘But so many make road-kill’,

I demur, as the dainty deer

muzzles short clover and grass.

‘Good’, comes the vengeful reply,

‘they eat all my plants!’


do they belong, who cares’,

I wonder aloud, watching

tiny migrant hooves barely dent

the damp ground.


Olivia Byard      



First Bird  

(Quadrant, January 2016)


                    Short beaked,

needing more than insects,

poor at digging in the ground,  

it wakes in deepest night

to check ultraviolet light –

                   because worms

emerge in dark to mate, hating

light and sun, and writhing

earthworms make its early meal.

                      So a single hunting call

shatters silence with its spell

while dark still drapes

the sleeping world,

                      and carries

us from harm on a perfect pitch

of sound, across the risky wolf hours

into dawn.


Olivia Byard