Bird Notes

Everyone knows even the sad notes float.
So a dead bird always seems slightly absurd,
like a hardwired melody firing the wrong words,
a speck in the eye pulling a second or two
to come to a question, as when a bubble
bursts into a teardrop: where does it come from,
this sentiment you should have risen above?

Let’s break it down, break up the body,
the head, the neck; let’s pluck the jink and prink,
the sprig-legs and flourish, the fluff of the ruff,
let’s unravel the cords, unstring the heartstrings,
rip up the wind-pipe – double-barreled – and leave nothing
but the hollow at the heart of the swallow.

The syrinx: still with its whisper of that slip
of a nymph as she slinks among breezy reeds.
The treasure in the chest keyed by the click –
the tympanum – that lets breath unlock what?
Merely the lead-brain, genetic imperative?
The metallic clang and clamor for territory?

More than this, it must be more than this;
for there is a reasonless bliss which allowed
the grasshopper warbler to reel its thread
through the shadow-labyrinth of the reed-bed,
the nightjar to churr hour upon hour into dusk,
and the skylark to rush forth its loud fountain,
each note feeding the source of what springs up
after, which lets all those other shaded slivers
I haven’t heard for an instant thrill
bigger than any setting sun of restriction,
since their skinny wings hold the principle
that for every plain breath taken in,
a much richer thing should be given.





Iain Twiddy studied literature at university and lived for several years in northern Japan. His poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Salamander, The Blue Mountain Review, The Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The London Magazine, and elsewhere. He has written two critical studies, Pastoral Elegy in Contemporary British and Irish Poetry and Cancer Poetry.

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