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Syrinx In The Quills

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after Red River Blues; Henry Thomas


I don’t know where

it all comes from, or how

MacNeice’s Snow enters

the darkness of my head, or why

when I contemplate Her

navel and feel a painful longing

in the acidic pit of my churning

stomach, I spit out loaded

stirrings − words like pips

too leaden with the lyric

some poets say. I don’t

know how the sweet, ripe pulp

in the poem that surrounds them

has retained its sensual lingering.


Or why such seeds – imbedded

in me like buck-shot – are now

germinating and rising-up, seeking

the light to grow and bloom

and waft the tangy scent of those

kinky Crested Auklets I see in

an orgy of mating on the narrow

ledges of a sheer, rocky sea stack.


It’s all a gut-plumbing by Lead

Belly. And Henry Thomas

leads me back and turns

it – as if by alchemy – into

a melody that feels like liquid

gold. I turn my face to the west

to a river – to where lazy waters

run and flow between cuckoo-

spat meadows and marshland.

And Yellow Bitterns boom.


I see a little Reed Warbler

feed an oversized imposter. I hear

Her in the quills. I am become Pan

an’ the big, setting sun done gone.


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