Birds, again

after Coleridge, Baudelaire, Wordsworth, Harry, Gareth, et al.,

The birds are at it — hacking up the morning —
domesticated but brain dead, my friend the poet says,
a kind of interior haunting — their same tricks, on the same beats —
     Things ‘just go on,’ reprising —
the patterns of kissing, the stiffening of thought,
     Michael on the telephone, in the garden, forgetting —
Arranging our natures for the short term, what we lose in aura
we gain in mettle, what we gain in mettle we lose, somehow, we are gratefully disposed
to dawn chorus, asbestos, bringing in the slippers —
     My friend the poet lacks character, citing stone fruit, afternoon light —
he forgets to act, and is acted upon —
makes shitty connections, deals in a lot of talk —
like the birds, a great mimic, a thief of life —
so true it isn’t real, he says, greedy with artistic faith —
     Only poets and the idle rich buy themselves boredom —
the kind of good luck that feels like bad luck —
it’s good for the soul, not knowing things, having
a low threshold for guilt, a low tolerance for desire, making
‘guilty pleasures’ a little uneven,
hysterical with self-confidence, thinking proudly
that the circumstances are charmed, a harmonic system
of work, intellect, inaction,
an old string of beads snapping, threaded back —
Michael, telephone, the garden, forgetting,
the assertion of habit, like a loop in a monologue —
     Listen, it all amounts to deflecting
an evil eye, in the end
the sun comes up on the left, a sure sign of something, then it goes down
on the right, no good, but at the height
of every day it looks higher — mist, snow, pestilence, high wind,
lyrical dressing for the sense of loss — I have felt
eternity dwelling on a bus, seen the albatross
at an online funeral, not literally, but true as in, real enough — I have burned green blue
white sitting in my room, full of static yearnings, pantomiming self awareness and being
extremely wonderful, every tree
and flower convenient to my being, stewing in damp linen,
choosing helplessness as a style, typing — WE HAVE KILLED THE BIRD! — with one
sweaty and decadent at the doorway of sense,
thinking grey time, Extinction, then in the garden, every morning, birds again —
     My friend the poet says the meek shall inherit and the meek were birds, are they?
— in our lives of the mind we are fastidiously bored,
yelling at the chemist through the plexiglass, trying to return a bad mood like look, it’s in
saleable condition — My friend the poet says hey, remember the chain-smoking beast yawning
and obscene, come pub it’s only 11, it’s Thursday, hey Stranger! — double! — hypocrite! Listen!
— my friend the poet can hardly walk
to the bathroom, needs a minute alone, we ask darl, are you alright — replies I’m fine, I’m
storms, stars, all high things —
dragging two pints, wearing proudly his bad luck,
asking what is to be done, wringing his skinny hands —
     Listen!, my friend the poet, in a voice like a footnote, cites observations,
arsenic greens, painted ships, in a formidable statement about —
we can’t avoid a theme — the mule of tragedy and satire,
the present scheme, the big flat now all sterile, like most crossbreeds,
the more since there are no new days — noting failures with a powerful hmm, he says, hmm
over everything — the glitching sky
stuck at noon, the endless day yawning, between us all
we have seen the devil or figured out
how he moves — we talk him up
while Michael whispers sacred things asleep —
     My friend the poet cuts the safety cord and says
everybody smells the devil, but nobody believes in him
which sounds so true it’s real, we agree,
holding slippers, dull as a painting



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Ursula Robinson-Shaw

Ursula Robinson-Shaw is a writer from Aotearoa, living in Narrm/Melbourne. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne and co-director of sick leave, a reading series and journal. Her chapbook Noonday was published by Puncher & Wattmann in 2019.

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