Partridge: Paradise Lost
by Meg Kearney
When miles of hedges were planted to enclose British fields during the 18th century, partridges, which hide in underbrush, flourished. They became favorite game birds. . . . By the 19th century the French sport of shooting birds on the wing became customary. —100 Birds and How They Got Their Names
For miles and miles lush hedgerows were alive
with our toe-scratch and egg heat; our chatter
louder than bees, making green leaves flutter.
We hatched into this world wide-eyed; arrived
covered in down. By the time the scythe
swept the fields we were chestnut-barred and fatter,
all belly patch and seed-hungry. Better
to remember our red-throated love calls than try
to forget that first blast of dog, panicked
kuta-kuta cries, wing shudder as we
rose into light, dust, thunder-crack and star
Some of us dropped from the air like leaves.
The rest of us blinked in tall grass as dogs picked
them up gently. Black noses beat like hearts.
Meg Kearney is author of two books of poems for adults, An Unkindness of Ravens and Home By Now, winner of the 2010 PEN New England L. L. Winship Award, as well as two novels in verse for teens: The Secret of Me and its sequel, The Girl in the Mirror. Meg’s picture book, Trouper, is forthcoming from Scholastic in fall 2013. She lives in New Hampshire and directs the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts. (6/2013)