At The Heart Of A Bale – A Poem By Carol J Forrester

The shock of it.
A feather brush among brittle spines,
and it’s body,
a weight unexpected from the straw
I am scattering from these hands.
twice over now,
from rafters, eaves,
hollows above these stables,
the last place this swift would know.

When I was younger and stayed with my grandparents on a regular basis, I used to help with mucking out the stables. I have such vivid memories of picking up a bale of straw, shaking it loose, and a dead bird tumbling out. My grandmother’s explanation was that the bird had died in the rafters and fallen into the bale. I’m not sure if that was actually how it ended up there, but it happened enough times that straw and hay bales have freaked me out slightly ever since. Not a great phobia for someone whose whole family has been involved in agriculture at some point or another. Today’s Quadrille prompt brought this memory bursting to the forefront, so despite my inability to so much as look at dead birds these days, I managed to work it into my response.

In less morbid news, happy International Women’s Day, and Women’s History Month! Over the weekend I posted a piece on Britain’s First Female Historian Catherine Macaulay. For those of you who know of Mary Wollstonecraft, Macaulay was a contemporary, and her ‘Letters On Education’ which call for equal education for girls and boys, predates Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’. While it’s not poetry, I would love to hear any thoughts anyone may have on the article as I’m now working on my third ‘Women In History’ piece which looks at the women of the Peasants Revolt in 1381.


  1. Your poem and story reminded me of a verse from the Bible in Matthew, “But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” I would amend this (not intending sacrilege) to it applies to poets as well. Great poem and story to honor these tiny feathered ones.


  2. A sad story, and a childhood experience that hangs in the attic of your brain! A memorable read!


  3. I got the picture, and I’m glad you amplified how it came to be by providing the backstory. I live in Lots-Of-Haybales Vermont, and I’ll never see another one without thinking of this fine work. Kudos!


  4. I cannot remember the last time I’ve seen a dead bird in a hay bale on our farm although I often see feathers. I’m more disturbed by the sharp, crushed beer cans in ditch bales that our cows could cut their mouths on!


  5. An interesting post, Carol, especially the paragraph about your piece on Britain’s First Female Historian Catherine Macaulay. I will be reading it and will try to comment as soon as I can. I look forward to the piece on the women of the Peasants Revolt in 1381.
    I love the way you poem starts with ‘The shock of it.’ which is an excellent hook to a poignant quadrille, and the perfect juxtaposition of ‘feather brush’ and ‘brittle spines’. Thank you for sharing your memory,


  6. I felt the fragility of the bird’s hollow body through your words. It must have been a shocking discovery for a child.

    Great that you are doing work on women in history. I will have a read when I have a little more time!


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