A SHORT STORY OF FLYING
After Alice Oswald
IT IS the story of the calling bird:
A secret freely shared but rarely heard.
It’s flying spooled, and sky distilled and swilled,
Like waking, across the dawn, the lawn, the field
Of maize, the forest in the afternoon.
It is the spinning world, its waxing moon;
A tide that turns in things, the way a river
Springs from rock, the shock of hope, the shiver
That thrills inside the thought of rested wings:
The way a coiled mind now calms—and springs
Again into the flight it knew before
It fouled its lines along a loreless shore.
It is the lyric of the patient earth
That wants the sky to be its second birth.
If freedom is the hardest edge to hold,
This is how it’s held—unbought, unsold.
This morning it’s the song two spinebills climb
Into the rigging of midwinter’s rhyme
That’s undressed every garden tree and woken
Me to days like doors that want to open.
Chords that want to cry grief down, they’ve flown,
As one must let the past, before I’ve grown
Some legs and found the heart to rise and score
Their music on this page as if it were
My own. And overnight it was the owls,
Like books of wanton hours, the crooning fowls
That mistake every midnight for the dawn.
Let their eternal error be my own
Diurnal trick. A moral overheard:
The breaking story of the calling bird.
Note: This poem takes its shape and rhyme and rhythm scheme from Alice Oswald’s ‘A Short Story of Falling’, which, rising, it answers.
IN TIME, one’s children, like one’s youth, fly, but let no one rush them.
Above the reservoir, where I go for breathing lessons, smoke
Hawk circles, like a carpenter’s hands, sanding the east wind smooth.
THE DOG, who’s learning this place like a faith I’d like to practise,
Abandons the made way for the water’s edge, the sedge and mud.
Among all that eludes him: firetail and treecreeper and wren.
THE REST: A SIJO
SOLITUDE, here, by the lake with you, love, is a book of birds.
If I name just one—whipbird, say—or two—blackswan, heron – hear
The rest. Here, the rest: sixteen notes scored by oars in glass shallows.