Syrinx and Other Poems


Of all the songbirds, the nightingale wanders least in body,
most in song, the inventions so prodigious who is to say

what varies what, where a theme ends, variation begins.
Those who read the whole arrangement puzzle over why.

From a disarray of branches: the new species, breeds,
and finely painted bugs to eat them. Of all the canaries,

the brightest prospects ruffle the most delighted feathers.
The syrinx in their throats is double-pitched, broken

at the brachial divide where the labia flutter a sound so sweet
it cuts a bird in two. There is a trick I play. I invent

a vernacular to thread the pearls of a genus on one long
string, the many women and men on one long breath.

With every name, a pierce. Then the other trick: the one
becomes one alone, and that too draws a sigh of relief.

The depressive rises from bed. Dawn has never been this dawn.
Welcome to a world, it says, so impenetrable, ineffable,

calm, no one answers, no one calls. Why is there everything
instead of one thing, one ocean inside these oceans of light.

Long ago I watched my mother sleep and never wake.
What if it is nothing, she asked me, eyes wide, the night before.

And I had no answer. I said, Be calm. You’re fine. Then I
read her a poem by a man who loved the cows, the map-

like patterns on their backs, the chaos that bears testament
to the glory of all. Praise, he said, for the thread that binds

the many breeds of elephant and flu, the inarticulate cry,
the carnivorous bloom. To the red-throated warbler, praise,

and the song that breaks a warbler open, the pruning
shears as manic as the rose. The world has fallen

from a high place and shattered gardens over earth,
and the scattered pieces need each other to be seen.

They need to be named, loved, then unnamed to be seen
once more. Of all the songs, the wordless variations

travel farthest, across the graves of oceans, breakers,
shores; praise the light, they say, that needs a place to fall.

The Dove of the Morning News

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