by Gillian Clarke
Q Who is the person speaking in the poem?
A 'I' in verse two, and 'we' in verse 5, tell you that the viewpoint is the poet's, that the poet is not alone to witness the peregrine killing and butchering the pigeon.
Q What is the scullery?
A It’s a special room next to a kitchen in an old house, and it’s where the washing up was done. I chose it for its old associations, and its sound. I like the way the word echoes ‘skull’, a place of skulls, the peregrine’s kitchen and killing place. Note the word ‘table’ in verse 3.
Q Why is her house air?
A Because birds live in the air. The air is their staircase.
Q What do you mean by : ‘I touch the raw wire/ of vertigo/ feet from the edge'?
A Vertigo is a fear of heights. It's like an electric shock, like touching a raw wire.
Q What is ‘the edge’?
A Since vertigo is fear of heights, 'the edge' must be the edge of a cliff or quarry. Peregrine falcons nest on cliffs. The peregrine in the poem killed her prey on the cliff before taking it back to her nest half way down the cliff face. The meaning is in the language. The language suggests height, flight, descent, falling, the sky, the earth.
Q What does 'The pigeon bursts like a city' mean?.
A This is my personal favourite image. Have you seen news footage of aerial bombing? I imply the bursting of intricate, perfect complexity, heart, arteries, lungs, feathers, bones, like streets, centres of government, galleries, cathedrals, etc.