Red Alert

She came,

heavy with shopping,

red scarf, waving secret messages,

on sea side gusts.

She stood poised,

car park deserted,

lowered bags to her feet.


Before she declared her generous intention,

they seemed to know.

Appearing one by one, at first,

noiselessly landing on walls, fences.


Surrounding at a safe distance,

the reconnaissance.

Beady eyes watching, wings folded,

side stepping with edgy deliberation,

beaks pointed towards her,



She reached down,

tugged open plastic wrapping.

In that instant the sky was full,

a flurry of white and grey wings,

the fleet circling, hovering, swooping.

As she cast her donation around

with jerks of urgency,

yellowed beaks snatched and squawked ravenous menace,

in a stabbing fury.

Trying to share fairly

to this vast clamouring crowd,

she cast handfuls to the young and be-speckled

and cunning old , alike.

They trespassed too close, alighting on her back.

but she continued her quest,

until every last crumb,

flung and fought over.


With greedy ingratitude,

they left her alone,

lifting off indifferently into salt sea air,

a retreating cloud, smug,

mission accomplished.

Calling only to each other,

gone, gone.

Tucking the flapping scarf

safely into her coat,

carriers gathered up,

she ambled away,

job done.

That frenzied scene

over in a moment.

But up high, unnoticed,

the scavenging sentries perch,

on cliffs or chimney pots,

guarding 'their' town;

ever watching, waiting,

for the next signal.

 © Alison Stedman 2016
from Raised From Dust, published by Onwards and Upwards