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—



“Of the Song Bird” was previously published in Kenyon Review, fall 2007; and on Poetry Daily in October 2007.