MudSong 29: In the lawn

Anagramming
—Sally Bliumis Dunn

Silent, the word

lifting off, only
its letters

in the white air
of the page, swirl,

rearrange,
then brighten

as though at dawn,
a flock of robins,

struggling to gather
in the wind;

anagram’s answer
lands on the lawn,

brown heads lowered
into thin green blades.

For burrowing worms,
they listen .

 

"Robins" by Leslie White, used with permission from the artist.

“Robins” by Leslie White, used with permission from the artist.

MudSong 28: Dapple-dawn-drawn

The Windhover
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
American Kestrel: adult female taking flight. © William Jobes, PA, September 2008

American Kestrel: adult female taking flight. © William Jobes, PA, September 2008

MudSongs 24 & 25: Lush with collision

Birdsong
—Joanie Mackowski

Bustle and caw. Recall the green heat
rising from the new minted earth, granite

and basalt, proto-continents shuffling
and stacking the deck, first shadows flung

from the ultraviolet haze. A fern
uncurls from the swamp, the microscopic furnace

of replication warms the world, one
becoming two, two four: exponential blossom.

Lush with collision, the teacup balance
of x and y, cells like balloons

escaping into the sky—then the dumbstruck
hour, unmoored by a river,

a first fish creeps to the land to marvel
at the monstrous buds of its toes. And stars

grow feet and walk across the years, into these dozing,
ordinary days, climbing the spine’s winding

stair, where crickets yawn and history spins.

 

Still Life with Three Bird's Nests by Vincent van Gogh (on his 161st birthday).

Still Life with Three Bird’s Nests by Vincent van Gogh (on his 161st birthday).

 

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
—Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
in which you see all forms intensified.
(Out in the Open, you would be denied
your self, would disappear into that vastness.)

Space reaches from us and construes the world:
to know a tree, in its true element,
throw inner space around it, from that pure
abundance in you. Surround it with restraint.
It has no limits. Not till it is held
in your renouncing is it truly there.

Mudsong Twenty: Turning into the dreamwork of trees

Why I Need the Birds
—Lisel Mueller

When I hear them call
in the morning, before
I am quite awake,
my bed is already traveling
the daily rainbow,
the arc toward evening;
and the birds, leading
their own discreet lives
of hunger and watchfulness,
are with me all the way,
always a little ahead of me
in the long-practiced manner
of unobtrusive guides.

By the time I arrive at evening,
they have just settled down to rest;
already invisible, they are turning
into the dreamwork of trees;
and all of us together —
myself and the purple finches,
the rusty blackbirds,
the ruby cardinals,
and the white-throated sparrows
with their liquid voices —
ride the dark curve of the earth
toward daylight, which they announce
from their high lookouts
before dawn has quite broken for me.

MudSong Seventeen: With ice clinging fast to their wings

A Multitude of Birds
—by Ron McFarland

Sing now the desperate dance of small birds.
Sing where the quail collect after snowfall,
the mud-gutted borders of roads where the last
hard grains of wheat lay heaped with the gravel.

Sing the wren’s last colorless song,
the solitary vireo’s slow cold slur
by the roadside sifting old brown bags
for crusts or breadcrumbs, or perhaps

among the shards of bright green glass
a sip of wine, a claret deep as blood.
Sing then the cunning of sparrows which look
like nothing but dark little rocks,

for they will endure, and the starling
whose song is the echo of anything,
and the waxwing, gregarious feeders.
Sing warblers and blackbirds perched on the edge

of winter with ice clinging fast
to their wings, with plentiful seed
lying deep, with songs frozen hard into words,
sing now the desperate dance of small birds.

 

A robin, wrens, bullfinches, blue tits and other birds sheltering in a snow storm; a flock of sparrows roosting in a winter landscape (a pair) each by Harry Bright.

A robin, wrens, bullfinches, blue tits and other birds sheltering in a snow storm; a flock of sparrows roosting in a winter landscape (a pair) each, by Harry Bright.

MudSong Thirteen: A change of mood

 

Dust of Snow
— Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

 

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), as illustrated in Trees of Indiana, by Charles Clemon Deam.

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), as illustrated in Trees of Indiana, by Charles Clemon Deam.

 

For more of March’s MudSongs, featuring poems by Cummings, Dickinson, Neruda, and others, click here.

 

MudSong Nine: Beak to beak

 

Two Pigeons
— Mary Jo Salter

They’ve perched for hours
on that window-ledge, scarcely
moving. Beak to beak,

a matched set, they differ
almost imperceptibly—
like salt and pepper shakers.

It’s an event when they tuck
(simultaneously) their pinpoint
heads into lavender vests

of fat. But reminiscent
of clock hands blandly
turning because they must

have turned—somehow, they’ve
taken on the grave,
small-eyed aspect of monks

hooded in conferences
so intimate nothing need
be said. If some are chuckling

in the park, earning
their bread, these are content
to let the dark engulf them—

it’s all the human
imagination can fathom,
how single-mindedly

mindless two silhouettes
stand in a window thick
as milk glass. They appear

never to have fed on
anything else when they stir
all of a sudden to peck

savagely, for love
or hygiene, at the grimy
feathers of the other;

but when they resume
their places, the shift
is one only a painter

or a barber (prodding a chin
back into position)
would be likely to notice.

MudSongs Seven & Eight: O, she says

 

Two poems by Hailey Leithauser. 

Mockingbird

No other song

                    or swoop (part
       quiver, part swivel and
             plash) with
  tour de force
stray the course note
       liquefactions
   (its new,
bawdy air an
       aria hangs in) en-
thralls,
             trills, loops, soars,
                    startles, out-warbles,
out-brawns, more
       juicily,
                    lifts up
the dawn, outlaws from
                        sackcloth, the cool
     sloth of bed sheets,
                             from pillows
           and silks
                and blue-quilted, feminine
bolsters, fusses
                      of coverlets;
                                   nips as the switch
of a juvenile willow, fuzz
               of a nettle, to
       window and window
                           and window and ever
                   toward egress, to
           flurry, pollen
and petal shed,
                            to wet street
  and wet pavement,
              all sentiment intemperate,
  all sentience
                         ephemeral.

 

 Plate 21 of Birds of America by John James Audubon depicting Mocking Bird.


Plate 21 of “Birds of America” by John James Audubon, depicting Mocking Bird.

 

O, She Says

O, she says (because she loves to say O),
O to this cloud-break that ravels the night,
O to this moon, its mouthful of sorrow,
O shallow grass and the nettle burr’s bite,O to heart’s flare, its wobbly satellite,
O step after step in stumbling tempo,
O owl in oak, O rout of black bat flight,
(O moaned in Attic and Esperanto)O covetous tongue, O fat fandango,
O gnat tango in the hot, ochered light,
O wind whirred leaves in subtle inferno,
O flexing of sea, O stars bolted tight,O ludicrous swoon, O blind hindsight,
O torching of bridges and blood boiled white,
O sparrow and arrow and hell below,
O, she says, because she loves to say O.

MudSong Six: the whole gift of the day

 

Bird
— Pablo Neruda

It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air –
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography –
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

 

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