Hunters’ outpost, Gozo, December 2018 — photograph by author

It was a week before I wondered,
walking the cliffs above the shore
alone with the wind
The sea below like beaten bronze
along pathways worn long before the Romans came,
The silence like a third presence with wind and stone,
“Where are the gulls?”

Looking South to Africa from Gozo cliffs, December 2018 — photograph by author

None in the harbor of Mgarr.
None trailed the bright blue fishing boats returning to their moorings,
None in the dumpsters behind the restaurants,
None among the wrack along the shore.|
None riding the updrafts along the cliffs.
No gulls, no wading birds, no sandpipers casing the foam.

Fishing boats Mgarr Harbor December 2018 — photograph by author

Malta like a cross in the migratory routes
Malta like a crosshair in a hunter’s scope
A zone of death for birds that pause or pass.
Imagine, Seven Thousand crosses per square kilometer,
more than two million per year.
The highest density of death for birds on the planet.

Culture. It is our culture.
Our heritage.
So much is defended, as though it were right.
Right to hand an impoverished land to the future
Our culture, my right to take.
On Malta, it is birds.
But it is climate, and rainforests, and one species after another.

Until silence reigns.

For it is our culture of silence that makes it so
and silence shall be our reward.
Silence but for the long song of wind and stone
and the beat of waves on the shore far below.

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