Monday, April 10, 2006

On the Wing

A Foul Wind
(written 4/09/06)

A Swan in Cullerdyke,
died last week in Scotland, followed by reports
of dead birds and more dead birds.

They plan to close the schools
to save the lives of 50,000 children.

The swan succumbed to a H5N1 strain that
killed birds in Ruegen Island, off the coast
of Germany, in February.

30 countries have reported avian flu in birds
since the beginning of 2006.

Emergency workers and retired lory drivers will be
pressed into service to deliver necessities --
'til the last left standing.

Play this out in your home town --

Gather provisions, knowing a friend or child
will call, and you will brave the bitter wind.

I like birds --
the oblique gestalt of imprint,
flight, song.

We could have been ready
for this, and aren't.

Emergency services, health care, governments
designed for profit don't prepare for disaster,
no money in it.

The money is in horror.

The scourge of Capitalism may finally be --
the simple migration of birds.

It is Spring and birds are on the wing.

(written in the late 70s)

To understand bird languages,
swallow a snake.
Carry a hawk tongue
under your own.

Stuffed birds in the house fly away with good fortune. The robin's breast is red with the blood of Christ. Grind up dry hummingbird, feed it to the woman you love and she will never leave. Vultures are all female. To impregnate themselves, they turn backside to the wind. Three years later they give birth. The phoenix lays an egg of myrrh in a nest of cassia and incense, then dies. From her bones springs a worm which turns into a phoenix. To the golden hawk, feed scraps of meat. Do not sneeze in its presence, or you will die. Buzzard feathers brush away evil. Peacock feathers burn embryo out in miscarriage. Maat is the female manifestation of Toth, master of law, inventor of speech. Her name means flute, which makes the throat inhale breath. The bird that made milk was hidden, then let out, then stolen but returned, saved the children from a storm, stole them, returned some, married one, made the wind with its wings, stirred up the water, so the fisherman stole it. The jacksaw flew off with the ring of the Archbishop of Rheims. The bats of Babylonia are the bird-souls of the dead. When Solomon was traveling in the desert, the hoopoe bird sheltered him from sunfire. Zeus came to Leda in the form of a swan. The cock of the rock makes a magical dance, brings the rain. Red bird: fire, lightening and blood. Stare into the yellow eye of the curlew and jaundice will travel from your body to its. The oyster-catcher is benevolent. The white bird in flight makes the sign of the cross. The barnacle goose is hatched from a shell fish. The quail rides the back of a crane over water. The osprey hypnotizes the fish that it catches. The shaman in trance explodes into birdsong. The universe hatched from an egg spawned from the mud in the Nile which is the hidden but eternal name of the sky. The Goddess of Whirlpool drew into her body Quetzalcoatl, poured in pulque, mist of agave, mushroom, his heart burned up and ascended as morning star. The cult of sky-hero is made of the heroes of dreaming. Ignorant of science, the rainmakers roll their stones and are thunder. Bird-souls fly out of spirit/time into life. Shooting stars are the recent dead flying in and out of skyworld. Hawaii emerged from the sea when Great-Bird descended and laid down an egg. Two pigeons flew back and forth across the water until a blade of grass appeared and dry land followed. The simurgh of Persia bore great rain-bearing wings to the desert. The roc bird swoops into the Valley of Snakes, brings back lumps of meat to which diamonds adhere. Zeus rode an eagle. Venus rode a goose. Skanda rode a peacock. Kama rode a parrot. Wing-footed Mercury. Jesus flew up to the heavens at baptism. Ravens were ridden in and out of hell by witches in Europe. The song of a whale speeded up is the same as a bird call. Odin's ravens gathered the news. A woodpecker heard on the right is a good omen, on the left beckons evil. A white bird flying into your house portends death.

To understand bird languages,
swallow a snake.
Carry a hawk tongue
under your own.

┬ęSusan Bright

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.


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