Pity for a Birdless World I detoured along the shore at sundown, avoiding the short route home to consider what you, my love, had told me: our true souls are as mortal as foam fizzing above the tideline. I sat on a log. Watched crows hop and sanderlings chase waves back and forth, snatch amphipods from popping suds. Black dots appeared above the setting sun. Rungs of flickering dark spots spawned at their peak a visible globe… then all the piper peeped and crows cawed: Beware! The birdless world that lurks behind the sun is showing through! Twin Earth, where automata run without birds inside for songs to bell, where flesh lives unpaired with souls to smear with taste or smell! Exposed, enlarged by some celestial mirage, I saw the turning image of our twin planet loom, faintly showing landscapes like our own until, on its horizon, leaves like sickle moons pierced that globe’s blue envelope of air. A single tree grew there: vast branches reared buds and leaves so high that waves of cosmic birds could brush against and perforate their skins, slaking the need that shivers in all cells. And all the crows and sanderlings and I pleaded with the force who fuses flesh to soul: Bless this tree, this witness to being’s thirst for birds! Bless each fungus woven in its rhizome, the sowbugs and slugs sheltering within its scalds. Spare them the curse of soulless melusines and mermaids, perishing when essences incapable of death replace all mortal atoms. Let this tree be honey-combed with hatchlings in foramina and crotches. Let bark be maculate where beaks chip holes for sap. Let rainbow flocks cacophony on every bough. In its chartreuse dark let raptors snatch up wailing rats — let its snakes glut the crops of storks. The sun sank. The birdless planet blinked from sight. Shorebirds whisked to wing. Ranks of crows coalesced on the wooded bight. I sat alone, pitying a planet of atoms simpliciter and longing for your touch, your look. I thought of you at home, my love: sipping tea, or sucking chocolate chips, full of life and hives of words. In you repose both flesh and soul: a braid of clockwork and living birds.
Daniel Cowper is a poet from a small island off the west coast of Canada. His poems and criticism have appeared in reviews in Canada, the United States, Ireland, and the UK. He is the author of a book of poems entitled Grotesque Tenderness (MQUP), and The God of Doors, which was published as winner of Frog Hollow Press’ chapbook contest.
A truly ‘wow’ poem that should be submitted to competitions!