Publication Date: July, 2020
Location: In the PoetsOnline Archive, under “Once Upon a Time”.
Genesis: I wrote this poem a little over two years ago. At the time, I was reading a Terry Pratchett Discworld novel to my son (I forget which novel, alas) in which a minor character is a gnome who rides the back of a tame heron to get from place to place and, crucially, to quickly get up onto spires and roofs from where he could carry out his main business as a spy and assassin. This made me wonder about the process – how on Earth would a little gnome go about taming a bird as large as a heron, for goodness sake??
When the prompt arose from PoetsOnline to write a poem with a fairy tale feel about it, I felt this one fitted the bill perfectly.
The Gnome & the Heron (Inspired by two lines in a Terry Pratchett novel) I wear my green hat, My green coat and pants, Pull my green boots onto my feet. Then I paint my face green And don my green gloves And finally stride out to meet… A heron. Deep in the marshes I find me a spot Where I crouch down and make like a frog. I might be among reeds, In shallows, or in mud, Or I’ll pose and I’ll wait on a log… For a heron. A gnome all in green, Crouched just the right way, Is a frog, to the casual and unwary. This shape-shifting skill Is rare in our kind And rarer still in the leprechaun and faerie. I’m still, but alert, For an eagle or hawk Could ruin my plans – and my jacket. My target is a wader, Careful and quiet, Though to my ears, he still makes a racket. A heron appears, Sidles up close to me, Makes a grab, quite expecting a snack. I’m too fast, I roll over, And shin up his beak, And nut him. He’s out cold, on his back. Now for the potion – I stashed it nearby In my blow-gun, all loaded and ready. A puff up each nostril (The heron’s, not mine) And hold the beak in my hands, nice and steady. The heron. Now I just wait, Right in front of the bird, While the potion, and concussion, work their magic. It’s vital he sees me Before anyone else! Seeing another before me will be tragic. The sun’s almost set When he opens one eye – Must have nutted him harder than I meant. He gazes upon me And my work here is done; The changes I’ve wrought are permanent. Now he thinks I’m his Mum And he’ll serve me for life – My transport, my messenger, my friend. Not much goes on In that tiny, feathered brain, But we’re together now. Together. ‘Till the end. My Heron.