Shooting season

It was unusual to spot a pheasant squat still,
from this distance.
We had clocked it from across the paddock.
Fifty clicks away, the
baize and claret twitch of fear.

The majestic head,
emerald cap and blindfold red,
crooked to one side, tracking us with
impossible cockerel eyes.

Traces of blood nearby;
rain-slashed on the long grass,
quickly made black against the
yellow-green of turf.

A three-inch pellet took the spine of its back,
snug between the wings –
out of flap but still intact.

Plastic cone and shocking metal,
a disposable zippo,
crammed deep around the rump.

The half-dead bird was now all gun:
the hunter’s slug deep in the barrel
of a failing body, loaded –
ready to shoot.

Dad picked up a makeshift club.
Stock-still, suddenly infants again.
He ordered me and Paddy to walk
to the next field,
to not turn back,
he’d catch up soon.

Christy Hall