The Hen Swallows a Worm or Slug
By A.V. Christie
We scratch at the backyard together
through leaf mould, worm casings she kicks off
in a fan behind her. I use a stick
to dig, to find for her what she’s shown me
near the roots, at the edge of a step—sticky
slug on the underside of a hosta’s leaf.
How complicated she is and how resigned.
Between her beak and my outstretched hand,
the worm’s writhing. Then the long slick going
down. It fills the throat, like all that’s swallowed.
Her head chucks it back,
for the worm again dark.
The hen’s pupil dilates.
She wends and follows.
Her queries, sighs, low gurgles, the hastening
click of her nails on pavement then hungry
again into the grass. Grubs are larger
than pale yellow larvae I prize from inside
chestnuts. These mucousy blind wanderers
she eats right from my palm. Nevertheless I am
repulsed by my husband’s embrace. I turn
now from his thick belly, breasts, his interests.
A body I had clambered over, loved.
I scrabble, struggle. I cover myself.
Another sticky truth dug up
that I must re-bury—
sorry on hands and knees,
hungry and wary.
On the Departure of the Nightingale
By Charlotte Smith
Sweet poet of the woods, a long adieu!
Farewell soft mistrel of the early year!
Ah! ’twill be long ere thou shalt sing anew,
And pour thy music on the night’s dull ear.
Whether on spring thy wandering flights await,
Or whether silent in our groves you dwell,
The pensive muse shall own thee for her mate,
And still protect the song she loves so well.
With cautious step the love-lorn youth shall glide
Through the lone brake that shades thy mossy nest;
And shepherd girls from eyes profane shall hide
The gentle bird who sings of pity best:
For still thy voice shall soft affections move,
And still be dear to sorrow and to love!
To the Cuckoo
By William Wordsworth
O blithe New-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice.
O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wandering Voice?
While I am lying on the grass
Thy twofold shout I hear;
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off, and near.
Though babbling only to the Vale
Of sunshine and of flowers,
Thou bringest unto me a tale
Of visionary hours.
Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;
The same whom in my school-boy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky.
To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen.
And I can listen to thee yet;
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden time again.
O blessèd Bird! the earth we pace
Again appears to be
An unsubstantial, faery place;
That is fit home for Thee!
There Is a Birdsong at the Root of Poetry
By Jennifer Moxley
For Ann Lauterbach
Hemmed in by an un-
below fragile branches
of avian feet scaly crossroads scoring
a particular blue of sky
through the uselessness of misplaced
forms thorny prongs
that make no sense (and yet belong)
on the ground
out of which
the bird wings stiffly jut
kneel the body's aged mechanism
beneath the shade of dry feathers,
angle the vulnerable cavern
of ear—trembling passage to psyche's
failures our fall
into suffering knowledge—toward the root
listen you will hear
the wasted strains of an underground song
rising from the muffled beak: site of a perverse smothering
throated core submerged
deadened by thoughtless depths
for the dead have kept it
safe from false music
a ghoulish guard of LOVE
bullied by the cruelty of others
the sophistication of fashionable libraries
the envy of those
who would molest the world into false confessions
and banish all mystery
with their dripping
candles she who would
unearth the birdsong to cage it
she who will end by destroying what she loves most.
it is drawn by other amblers
its strains awake in our attentions
as a sudden bewildering happiness
ear wedded to earth, listen
what those who know all