2 poems by Magdalena Ball


Ornithological has so many beats it takes flight in the mouth

letter-winged, like a kite, the word is a raptor, onomatopoetic

making saliva, the beginning of digestion, enzymes breaking 

down particles, evoking the desire of ownership.

There’s no malice, it’s just irruptive, built of necessity

there are secrets you cannot know, when you’re always grabbing. 

I speak from knowledge. I was born a bird, grew out of it

feathers smoothed in ageing, learned how to pretend.

I guess you could say I’m a hybrid, clumsy against the earth

crashing in.

Because I’m good, I take it, swallow, which is not my breed.

Remembering is an act of defiance

after all those words, here I am tongue-tied

it’s not what I’m missing that causes the stutter 

it’s surfeit, sensory awareness is the easy part

layers of landscape, sound, pattern, 

phylogeny: even a beak can make the sound

you can’t blame me for liking such silky transmissions

floating past as compression waves. This is what I was born for

letting contractions become my body, so much that gets missed

warning signs no longer early.

Flesh is just another word for skin giving in to gravity

the movement of time unfeathered on the beak, you could call it 

by another name, not youth, that’s a different bird.

A lost blur against the sky, swifts and house martins

it always comes back to flight, and now, just the path

shaped like a figure of eight, twisting back on itself

counting from zero, the musky scent of consolation

opening the body to change.


There’s no proof this ever happened

the sound isn’t even audible

unless you’re a dog, in which case      

rhythms preserved in the patterns of words. 

Every object has a resonant frequency

run a finger along the rim: ghost hum.

She didn’t like being called a gypsy 

though people lined up at her door

money in closed fists, ready to hear 

her secrets, wrapped in a soothing voice

break the glass.

They came in secret   

tea leaves in a mug, left with something other

than answers it was

not that kind of fortune.

She hummed, a single note amplified

working through the cavity of the mouth

the pharynx

stretched along the larynx

shattering of history, a portal

they came in secret but they didn’t keep quiet

sound carries

mechanical waves moving through gas, liquid, solids

through the medium of time

press your ear against the table 

and it’s there still, carrying energy outward

into the hallway of her cramped apartment 

smelling of damp clothing and Barley soup 

into the streets, against the silence of intent

rushing into the future, always pushing

struggling, desire and hunger 

air, water, glass, shattering 

into the present where

the only thing that can happen

is that which seems impossible. 

About the contributor

Magdalena Ball is a novelist, poet, reviewer and interviewer, and Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader (compulsivereader.com). She is widely published in literary journals, anthologies, and online, and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction, including High Wire Step (Flying Island Press, 2018) and Unreliable Narratives (Girls on Key Press, 2019). 

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