Songbirds ... | Paul Dawson

Songbirds after the Lyric



From the window, that casual warble                                  

and chatter of unseen birds, clustered

somewhere amongst the leaves,

like an occasional question mark 

punctuating the crisp prose of

the morning light, now enjambed 


with their lines of flight. I try to scribe                                           

the range of their avian dialogue ­–

that fast paced clatter against the air

their drawn out call-outs from branch 

to fence, those deep inquisitive squalls

those melancholy cries scrawled


across the dawn-scrubbed sky.

A futile exercise in ham-fisted mimickry

to utter this untranslatable echo in my tone-deaf ear 

of birds whose names I don't even know.


Coleridge and Shelley had the nightingale

and the skylark, Dickinson the bluebird

Hopkins the windhover and woodlark –


but why try to personify? 

I resist their apostrophising and 

content myself with eavesdropping

on the wordless lyric exchange

of these anonymous backyard birds. 







Paul Dawson: My first book of poems, Imagining Winter (2006), won the national IP Picks Best Poetry Award, and my work has been anthologized in Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (2013) and Harbour City Poems (2009). My poetry appears in journals such as Meanjin, Island, Southerly, Overland, Cordite and Australian Poetry Journal. I teach in the School the Arts and Media at UNSW. 






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