What’s in a Name?

Today the wagtail finally forgot

that once I called it sigl-di-gwt.


It didn’t give a tinker’s toss,

kept right on rooting in river moss,


(no longer mwswgl) relieved, perhaps,

that someone would be noticing less


about its habits. Magpies’ fear of men

lessened, as we’d lost one means


(the word pioden) of keeping track

of terrorists birds out in the back.


Lleian wen is not the same as ‘smew’

because it’s another point of view,


another bird. There’s been a cull:

gwylan’s gone and we’re left with ‘gull’


and blunter senses till that day

when ‘swallows’, like gwennol, might stay away.

from Chaotic Angel: poems in English (Bloodaxe, 2005), © Gwyneth Lewis, 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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