In the misty English rain
of a late Essex afternoon
the robin sang his piercing melodies
near the kitchen door.
From the back step I watched him
stand near the twisty knots of ivy,
singing, singing, singing.
My landlady said he was staking
his territorial claim for his mate
in their nest inside the maze of hummocks
of thick woody tendrils
cowling the high stone wall.
She worried that a cat would catch them
or the fox seen by neighbours
scaling our walls at 3 am.
Robin had a bright orange breast,
a white belly, a tail pointing straight up behind him
and a subdued brown head and back.
He reminded me of the little fantail
of similar size and colouring
back in my home country.
Little piwakawaka calls shrilly
unafraid of nearby humans as he
searches for tasty insects, his tail fans
out as he hops from branch to branch.
I saw and heard robin only the once,
for a month later my work ran out
and I had to return home
halfway around the world
back to the home of the fantail.