The Last Songbird
By Brian Barker
We heard you once, here on earth,
singing from the icy turrets at dawn
as the tarry wind whipped skyward & you swooped
from steeple to balcony to wire, over the hospital
where a pink glow pulsed in one window
like the gummy heart of a mole
that burrows from the center of darkness,
from the center of stone & clay
where your song went to perish, how in the end
it already sounded so distant, like the whispers
of a dying poet trapped inside a glass jar,
or the sharp gasp of a ghost
bleeding through the radio in an apartment
where the ceiling kept coughing up
a fine, stinging snow of asbestos
& we opened the door & heard an explosion
& we opened the door & the day
was rubbing its forehead raw in the scalded parking lot
while someone’s mother wept, looking for her lost keys,
oh bird, what secrets we could confess
if only you would hold still, but you keep punishing us
by darting into the gaping mouth of oblivion,
you keep punishing us, shy thing,
by turning into a brittle leaf, or by leaping from the edge
of our sight into the cauldron of smoke roiling
beneath the bridge, punishing us in our dreams
where you drift & pirouette in the makeshift air,
where you fly in reverse & sing so sweetly
that the batik of blood creeping
over the sidewalk effervesces & recedes, flowing
backwards, & we wake remembering
our dead & the bright cafés
& how we used to whistle a little crooked tune
over the sounds of the morning traffic, calling you
down to lift us off the ground a bit
& bludgeon us with your song.
Barker's The Animal Gospels won the Tupelo Press Editors' Prize.
My kids had a half-day of school, but Adam broke a bracket on his braces last night after dinner, so as soon as he got home I had to rush him out to the orthodontist to get it repaired. I had already had an aggravating morning, having been hassled by someone I had considered an online friend about failing to support her game-playing sufficiently (sometimes I have this odd thing, an offline life, that does not permit me to devote myself fully to Facebook games), and then having the orthodontist's receptionist gripe and snap at me about how she really couldn't fit us in, even though she had also told me that Adam HAD to come in and have the bracket repaired RIGHT AWAY or it might affect the date for the removal of his braces. So it was actually a relief to come home and work on a review of "A Fistful of Datas".
1. What's your favorite magazine? I should say Smithsonian or National Geographic, but in truth it's probably British Heritage.
2. What book are you currently reading? The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan.
3. What's the worst book you ever read? I'm sure it was something I didn't finish. Of books I did finish, I was enormously disappointed with Milan Kundera's Immortality, which got rave reviews but I thought was sexist garbage.
4. What makes a book perfect for you? It uses language beautifully and doesn't go on too long or show off.
5. If you could buy any book right now, which one would it be? The Swan Thieves.
fannish5: 5 jobs you could see a character have besides the one they already have. Oh, I'll do Severus Snape.
1. Chef. This one has always seemed so obvious to me that when I used it in a story, I was afraid I would be told it had already been done ten million times, but in fact I was told that all Snape-as-cook stories were obvious ripoffs of a story in which Snape works in fast food.
2. Chemist. This one seems even more obvious -- he'd have to pass as a Muggle, but he could teach if he wanted or work strictly in pharmaceuticals if he wanted (legal or illegal).
3. International Spy. I don't actually think he enjoys this sort of work but he clearly has skill at it.
4. Carnival Psychic. He's a Leglimens -- he'd only need to stare into your eyes and he could do a fine job telling you what's on your mind.
5. Criminal Mastermind. "Everyone knows it's the Dark Arts he fancies."
We had dinner with my parents -- Cumberland Chicken has been one of my favorite things, and tonight I had Cumberland Non-chicken, which was excellent -- then watched Smallville, which I enjoyed mostly for the hotness between Chloe and Oliver, Lois kicking ass briefly before she was inevitably knocked out, and Zod finally gaining the capacity to be a super-villain, though I really disliked the horror-movie setup and the hardcore ick factor. I enjoyed all the speed skating in tonight's Olympics coverage, was very happy for Reutter, thought Ohno's disqualification in the 500m was fair though was glad the US men's relay team pulled out the bronze medal. Heartfelt condolences to the Koenig family -- I can't imagine there are many things worse than losing a child the way they lost Andrew. Here are some more photos from downtown last weekend:
Even so, it was warm enough for the National Museum of the American Indian to have its fountains running.
It was strangely quiet, though, with nobody throwing a Frisbee or football or flying a kite. I wonder whether skiing on the Mall was banned because we didn't see anyone trying it, or even tracks.
The mallard ducks are year-round residents and appeared to have found some grass and a pond...
...while the starlings were creating bird baths wherever they found appropriate puddles.
The fact that the water must have been very cold did not appear to bother them.
Though there were also plenty of birds picking up dropped popcorn around the popcorn truck outside the National Museum of Natural History. (I wonder who banded some of the birds?)
A photo taken out the window of my car as we got onto I-395 of the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument in snow.