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My Grandmother was a Pink-Footed Goose

Yvonne Reddick performs 'My Grandmother was a Pink-Footed Goose'



Yvonne studied for her PhD at the Warwick Writing Programme and Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, and then held an Early Career Fellowship at Warwick's Institute of Advanced Study. She says, "‘My Grandmother Was A Pink-Footed Goose’ is about migrant birds and my Swiss grandmother, who migrated first to France, then to Britain."

Speaking about the Warwick Writing Programme, Yvonne says, "I’ve never been surrounded by such supportive and inspiring people as the Writing Programme students and staff. We were always encouraged to believe in our literary talent and in our ability to succeed in a tough academic job market. I will never forget the day when Nick Lawrence and David Morley had a mock duel in Millburn House!"

My Grandmother was a Pink-Footed Goose

Yvonne Reddick


I squint north –
clouds like the sails
of a goosewinging boat.

I blow on my fists,
feel the scrunched membrane
meshing index to thumb.
Nails press like quills,
as if each finger
could sprout a pinion
and my thumb could end
in a bastard wing.

Where are the flocks?


My Mémé was bird-bone hollow, all ribstrakes and flapping bald elbows, flesh slouched over a V of sternum. Shallow breath-râles, knuckly birdleg fingers. Her English evaporated as her mind nested the tumour. The remains: “J’ai ces … hallucinations” of pools and oceans, my father webbing through air, his hands in outspread sheaves of primaries.

Plume-cinder ash when we burned Mémé. The south-easterly hush-hushed it north.


A horizon speck
sharpens into focus
as a wishbone V.

Flying at altitude,
geese pant each second,
their heartbeats must blur –
how do they snatch breath to call?

The names of their nest-sites
freeze air as I voice them:
Spitsbergen. Hvannalindir.

Touchdown of lipgloss feet
on saurian legs.
Parched beaks dapping
in algal-green pools.
The mere pours
off watermarked necks.

I wondered if anything could return
from those altitudes –

here are pink-footed geese
crying hark hark.

Yvonne Reddick is a writer and academic researcher. She grew up between Glasgow, Kuwait City, Chambéry and Berkshire. Educated at the Universities of Cambridge and Warwick, she has held research fellowships at Warwick and the University of Central Lancashire. She publishes scholarly articles, poetry and prose nature-writing. Her poems have been chosen to be displayed at the New Hall Art Collection, Cambridge, and to be seen by 3,500,000 people at the 2015 Blackpool Illuminations.