Margo Berdeshevsky

Of the Song Bird

Legend tells of the community of birds who had wings but no song as yet
: of a contest offered them by the god : of the prize of song—offered to that
bird who could fly the highest : of the tiny dun white-spotted-thrush who
knew it had no powers to fly high enough to win and wanted to—

 

Who crept, instead, who hid her small self in a white eagle’s feathered crown
to fly far higher than all others : who dozed there, dreamed there, concealed in
her carrier’s flight, and longing—and when her eagle tired, she who knew, and
bounded out and upward farther still—

 

Legend tells of the coveted prize of song she heard and learned there, in the
heights : of the thrush who returned with the song of spheres in her thirsty
small throat, who knew she had won by cheating : who saw the gathering of
birds below—a community, receiving, each, their entitled songs—

 

Legend of the thrush who went away then, hid in the deepest of forests out of
shame— but who could not help her song from rising, even in those stands of
webbing vine and shadow—of a quest for beauty, of goodness as we barely
know it but beg to receive it —that it brings us to longing, only—

 

Frailty, that rarely, like the thrush, the gorgeous song in us climbs, a bird
ashamed of its arriving at a possession of beauty by unsanctified means, a
slouching off to such a dim-lit place where the song erupts in spite, its
open-winged remembering, seining from the quiet—


Margo Berdeshevsky
Of the Song Bird was previously published in Kenyon Review, fall 2007; and on Poetry Daily in October 2007.
Poem, copyright © 2007 by Margo Berdeshevsky
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2008, From the Fishouse