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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