Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash


A few of our world’s people still speak 
a tongue so old its closest analog
is birdsong. And a bird carved 
some thirty thousand years ago 
may well be our first work of art.

Why mimic the palaver of a thrush?
From wood or stone, why shape
a tern’s body, its wings pressed
tight against its sides? Or remember
the dream-moments our beating arms
took hold in air, lifting us away from earth 
trod smooth by our feet?

We each possess a bird-soul.
On the highest branch of every family tree,
a winged spirit preens in the sun,
gleaming with iridescence—
that sheen of our common blood.

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Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita, has seven full-length books of poetry, most recently One Small Sun, from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. The Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds chose a poem from her book The Voluptuary as the lyric for a choral composition that’s now part of the repertoire of the Choir at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Photo Credit: Rose Lefebvre


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