Ode To A Dead Starling

Did the birds tell you

In tremulous warning

We will build another sky in kinder hues 

The air as thin and bright as diagrams

Of escaping oscillations

Held against a winding sun

Bury my hand

Time’s mortared skin

In earth as warm as sleep

Whistling hymns to magpies in return 

A knife-hard split

At the corner of my mouth

Opens a sharp, metallic sting

Oxalis grows where you died

As if luck were grown a stranger shape

As if this voice of clay and air

Were another wanting prize

Sylvia’s Washing Line

The hills hoist tilts
In windmill indecision 
Hung by its own petard
Which always sounded 
Quite uncomfortable to me
As if the rust stained bag of pegs
Slung like a smile below the crank
Were some brash sporran 
Not just a place to keep your keys
As Dr Freud would have said 
A tangling cat’s cradle
Trailing kelp ends
The wire hung
In slack loops
For cockatoos to swing
In the asbestos afternoon
The rain a loudening drum
A cry, the bird is gone
Shoulders wet
The leaves and blades
In eye twitch shuddering
Turn the other way
The trapeze as empty
As Sylvia’s dead trees

A Bird In My Sleeve

The rain harangues
Curtails the rags of afternoon
To a kind of twilit comfort
Of these few close held rooms

You are in my sleeve
Sate as other Sunday evenings
Hesitant as a bird
Crumpled as if you were already thrown away
Like the stone the tailor threw
A knit as camouflaging
As any grass-thin shadows

Your voice, close enough
For doves to misconstrue
Still, against the staccato dark
Of shades rigged tight as seabird sails
In any failing storm
I don’t understand 
How suddenly you flew

Mother to owls

I will take calcium from your teeth
Until they are milk and opal strange
Too soft to eat me with
An accusation borne with a bird-bark laugh
My birdsong replies as raw as warnings
Sometimes I feel the mask beneath the skin
Descended from the stranger world
An owlet that you carefully kissed
If I all reasonless wept
Hands against my neck and chin
As if they were his unfurled wings
Here now, away from all such childhood familiarity
Your hands have the eyes of wear
Pulling roots and weeds from raucous beds
Of judas penny and rhododendrons 
How with a wringing love
In this embrace they watch
Measuring pale skin with callouses
I do not remember lullabies 
Only a lost and dreamful sleep
Your morning voice still echoing
Insistent as a sunrise

From seed a bird

From the bird seed that I spilled
Grows a bloom with eyes like wheels
That turn the way the sky chases clouds
On spindle legs and crooked wings 
It gathers bottle caps and things
That make a jangle noise
That – though voiceless – breathless sings
The birds all watch with care and chance
As the petals fold and dance
A hunger in their tourmaline misrule
With whetted beaks and silvered claws
In flock and fury pierce the hide
Of the creature that, in obeisance stays
Til leaves rent and eyes sky-blind
Fire yellow from inside
Takes wing and flies into the sun

What is a poem?

What is a poem? May as well ask, What is a bird? If your answer is, A creature that wants to fly, you are in the right place. Some consider the purpose of poetry is merely to create of mundane thoughts something poetic, a sort of polemic or didacticism or biograph dressed up in Sunday clothes. The creation of something poetic is, rather, a consequence, not a purpose. If you wish to give a sermon or a speech, do. However eloquent, this is not quite a poem.

In A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream Shakespeare has it that;

The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

From the intrigues of the imaginary, the poet makes something both astonishingly new and yet profoundly familiar.

Lewis Carroll infamously asked, How is a raven like a writing desk? Later in half-hearted glibness answering his own conundrum, because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat and it is nevar put with the wrong end first. I would simply say, the fault lies in the question, and return it to its beingness as a rhetoric koan; a raven is a writing desk – ink spills from both, how then is it not?

Edgar Allan Poe will tell you, a poem is the rhythmical creation of beauty, its highest purpose to evoke a sense of beauty in the reader. A poem, as French philosopher Gaston Bachelard has said, is a contemplation, written from a reverie. A kind of semi-autonomic daydream, in which purpose, language, tradition and elaboration entwine with the subconscious impulse. This reverie has the singular purpose, in its newness, to impel a consequent reverie in the reader. Akin to a suspension of that surface of critique, and falling into an auto-hypnopoetic trance.

If childhood is indeed as a glass of dreams, a glass darkly, poetry returns us to that wide awake reverie, to that reflexivity in which the world is images and mysteries that, before experience so fiercely trammels them, merge in unsuspected and unprecedented ways, that we are driven to order and unpuzzle.

The reader’s induced reverie is of course informed by what is significant to the reader, what resonates from their own journey of unpuzzling strata. If the poet is only trying to impart experience, well. We all already know what a bird is; what we want to know, what we want to feel, is of its desire to fly, and in the immensity of that blue, for a moment, in a dream, to fly with it.

Thus; A poem is a bird that from its desire to fly, creates itself.

What the dove said

In my bird garden
I asked a dove
If she mourns lost winter afternoons 
The sky furiously balming 
Your brow against the glass
Breathing shallow
But, with that reluctant mist
That warns of life in mirrors
Fast evaporating

The bird replied
Though we are 
Neither not so cold
Nor defined
by the shape of rain
That we would forego
Our easy days
Still, when the magpie sings
We will find an eave to hide behind

Life is fraught
Bridges far between 
The house you build
By tumbling roads
Will fall one day to the bright stars
Of soft, emerging asters
You think a bird a fool, but
How she watches, how she waits
On her flimsy precipice 
The magpie is a winter mountain