A gulp of cormorants

the trail was awash in
little and big rivers
that drew the coolness from
the crown of the mountain
in a rushing tumble to saltwater.

as we fumbled for flashlights
in the fading light
we passed through a field of sound that,
like a net dropping around us,
bound us to the spot.

It sounded like croaking sea lions
or parrots mimicking the noise
water makes as it gurgles down a drain
or the purring of cats, if cats’ throats were made of silver.

we looked up and saw
a hundred or more cormorants
all scrambling to roost in the last sips of light,
cluttering up the branches of a giant fir,
readying to tuck their sea-damp wings
and gossip their way to bed.

they were all a-natter with this
back-of-the-throat intonation
and we were stuck in their weird music
like rocks in a river
even as the colour drained from the day.

it was all cormorant silhouette
blue grey sky
the winging roar of rushing water
and the crooning gulp –
that is what a group of cormorants is called, a gulp –
licking the seal on the envelope of night.