Saturday, March 18, 2017


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 bless├Ęd 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-

tenable image:

                 feathers planted

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

rigid as

                  rhubarb leaf.

                                                    Should you

kneel the body's aged mechanism

                beneath the shade of dry feathers,

                                                    should you

angle the vulnerable cavern

                of ear—trembling passage to psyche's
                failures   our fall

into suffering                           knowledge—toward the root

                                                    should you

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

                but alive

for the dead have kept it

                safe from false music

a ghoulish guard of LOVE

                                                  SAFE from


she who

               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.

           Shhhh, quiet


it is drawn by other amblers

               its strains awake in our attentions

as a sudden           bewildering              happiness

              ear wedded to earth, listen

and hear
          what those who know all

can not.

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