Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

John Eppel

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE



Our totem, our familiar, was the crowned

plover that populated the playing

fields of Milton.  They made a screeching cry

of alarm when we almost crushed their eggs

or worse, their chicks, in vulnerable nests:

slight scrapes in the ground.  In wintry July,

attired incongruously in blazers

and slops, carrying our two shillings worth,

once a week, Thursdays, of tuck shop goodies:

two tickey cools flavoured orange and green,

six pink marshmallow fish, six ‘apricots’,

and a peppermint crisp; rekkens round our

necks to pot at pied crows, and a rolled up

exercise book for playing open gates

or touch rugby:  we made our way to Top

Field where the flocks were largest, chikkering

away, foraging  –  run, stop, run, stop, run -

for termites or, after guti, earthworms.


What drove me to it I shall never know,

but I broke its leg with the catapult,

swivelling my aim from a raucous crow…

the First Team rugby posts began to tilt,

the lapwings faded into their own din.

We chased the wounded bird and brought it down.

My friends said I had yielded to a sin -

they touched its leg and stroked its candid crown;

tied it, feebly quarrelling, to  my chest.

I have to keep it there until it dies.

My adolescent heart became its nest.

It’s with me still.  Kiewiet, kiewiet, it cries.




Please register or log in to comment