Brian Barker

Brian Barker

The Last Songbird


We heard you once, here on earth,

singing from the icy turrets at dawn

as the tarry wind whipped skyward & you swooped


from steeple to balcony to wire, over the hospital

where a pink glow pulsed in one window

like the gummy heart of a mole


that burrows from the center of darkness,

from the center of stone & clay

where your song went to perish, how in the end


it already sounded so distant, like the whispers

of a dying poet trapped inside a glass jar,

or the sharp gasp of a ghost


bleeding through the radio in an apartment

where the ceiling kept coughing up

a fine, stinging snow of asbestos


& we opened the door & heard an explosion

& we opened the door & the day

was rubbing its forehead raw in the scalded parking lot


while someone’s mother wept, looking for her lost keys,

oh bird, what secrets we could confess

if only you would hold still, but you keep punishing us


by darting into the gaping mouth of oblivion,

you keep punishing us, shy thing,

by turning into a brittle leaf, or by leaping from the edge


of our sight into the cauldron of smoke roiling

beneath the bridge, punishing us in our dreams

where you drift & pirouette in the makeshift air,


where you fly in reverse & sing so sweetly

that the batik of blood creeping

over the sidewalk effervesces & recedes, flowing


backwards, & we wake remembering

our dead & the bright cafés

& how we used to whistle a little crooked tune


over the sounds of the morning traffic, calling you

down to lift us off the ground a bit

& bludgeon us with your song.