Sunday, April 10, 2022

Gifting Of The Birds


 Gifting Of The Birds

They say a princess
will have the Fae come to her birth
to make her fate with augury for gifts,
but the peasant dreams in birds
 rainbowed as the sky, as sleek as night,

gathered round her cradle
with a liquid blackbird murmur
with two tumbling raven feathers
with six scarlet cardinal sins,
swarming seven snowy days

with all their gifts and curses, not sure
which to give her, some of this and some of that,
sum of love and losing, morning song
or evening silence, heart of grace,
tongue of willow, green mossflower, desert spine,
hard horse apples or sweet blood-oranges
of November moon, all or none of these
before they fly, on to the next accouchement. 
Still from time to time she sees them perching,
come back to check their work

cocking tiny heads aslant,
looking but not telling, never saying
more than a bird might say
about the time that's coming
when all gifts will be opened,

all the curses told.
What will you do at last, 
their bright eyes seem to wink,
with what we gave you,
before you can do no more?
 April 2022

 posted for 
Images: Birds of Paradise, © Vincente Manansala  Fair Use
Bird in Spectacles, author unknown, via Sunday Muse   Fair Use


  1. Oh, those final two stanzas swept me up. The description of the birds, both in things birds actually do--the tilting heads, the earlier referenced liquid murmur--and the things only the birds in this poem do, with the checking on their work, was delicious and made the entire scene just light up in my imagination. The final question is both startling and true, and made the poem. I can picture such birds tilting their heads at me as I sit here, and I wonder what they would think of their handiwork, and mine? What a pleasure it is to read a poem like this, Joy.

    1. Thanks, Shay--this comment means a lot coming from you.

  2. GAH! Thi is so replete with wonderful birds and imagery that I can hardly stand it. You and Shay have knocked it out of the park this week. I so love this, Joy. Every wonderful line.

  3. This poem is pure magic to read Joy! I love the birds bearing gifts and all the beautiful imagery that paints a scene that feels like something from ages ago!! Sherry is so right, you and Shay have blown us away for sure!!!

  4. A story-poem for the ages ... leaving us with a question rivaling that of Ms. Oliver.

  5. that it's not (necessarily) a raven asking, that it could be a coterie of aviaries, and I wonder if the question will be asked in silence: what will we do when no bird remain to sing? ~

    1. That's a question to which I dread the answer. Thanks for reading, M.

  6. "the peasant dreams in birds" - beautiful. "What will you do at last, / their bright eyes seem to wink, / with what we gave you, / before you can do no more?" - Goddamn! Is that what those birds are doing out there, and why I can't look them in their beady little eyes? They are calling my life to account? Holy god, that explains a lot.

    1. Ha! Someone is always judging, aren't they? Thanks, qbit.

  7. What gifts come with these graceful birds, promising no more than the psaltery of their small voices singing of "some of this and some of that," the sums of a life lived hard and well. (The proceeding litany is gorgeous). And aren't they vatic muses, "looking and not telling" as we poets should in our better hours. They are the Weavers of an earlier poem here, and the crows in the snow -- familiars of a self hatched not from Fae or fate but a simple sustaining (OK, sustained) Joy. Amen.

    1. Thank you sincerely, B. for your clear read and your kind words. I have a hard name to live up to, but I appreciate the nod to it and all my familiars.

  8. You write such incredible imagery. "gathered round her cradle with a liquid blackbird murmur" Love that line. I will look at birds much differently now.

    1. Thank you Susie. I hope your own writing is helping you in this difficult time.

  9. The imagery is so powerful!

  10. wow, i'm speechless. the paradox in this fairytale is so well defined, the gifts, the curse, your message is so clear. this is the kind of writing i aspire to... just brilliant


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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