Avian Hymns

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Birds of keen claws: scarlet tanagers and olive-backed king-birds of summers past: and you, too, red, red robins of spring, and you, birds of fire and song, it is of you I sing!


Criticism, sang the raven, is death, and Crow agreed, holding his breath. I could tell a hawk from a handsaw just as you can tell a sparrow from a swallow, a stone from a rock. Adam was the preening peacock, the lucky one. And after many a summer dies the swan.


In a drear-nighted December no birds sing where late the sweet birds sang.


The bird sings. Its feathers shine. And the copy editor has a shit fit when she sees the “fire-fangled feathers dangle down” at the end of this, the last poem in the canon. (She deletes down but the author writes stet in the margin.)


And O the catalogue of birds as singing fools in Chaucer or Apollinaire’s Zone: an airplane is a bird and so is our savior, not to mention Icarus, the boy who fell out of the sky, or the Holy Ghost in the form of a luminous dove entering the window like a ray of light aimed at the lap of the mother of God.