Pity for a Birdless World – a poem by Daniel Cowper

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.

1 Comment

  1. A truly ‘wow’ poem that should be submitted to competitions!


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