They had started work on the footings
the day before, almost completing
a hollow pier some eight or nine feet high,
then leaving the rest until that morning,
when heaving up the granite coping stone,
alarmed by sudden sounds inside,
they lowered the stone back to the ground.
Somebody went up again, shone a match
inside the dark: the bird was stuck fast
in half-congealed cement and brick rubble
too deep beyond their fingers’ reach,
too frantic to angle out with line or pole.
Your grandad made us take the whole thing down,
one of the brickies told me, years later,
scratching his head in rueful admiration.
I thought of a man I’d barely known:
grimly self-contained and shy, whose past
was shadows, threadbare clues, lost trails.
What did it mean, this sudden glimmer through the wall,
as the blackbird sang its freedom to the sky?