The darkest days in northern lands

It may not be as cold as usual for December, but the gathering darkness is just as deep, the days growing shorter still for another eighteen days yet.

In spite of winter’s chilly iron will, however, light and colour come bursting in from the air, especially around dawn. Here I celebrate that wonderful fact in the poem “By Bird Light”. I’m pleased to be able to report that Poetry Space has chosen this as one of its Winter Showcase poems—please visit the Poetry Space website to see more!

By Bird Light

At the morning’s opening show, my eyes
Are little more than dimmed footlights quenched

By first light:
Curtains of colour streak the east
And a silent dew leaks,
Seeps from hawthorn & holly leaves.
Ruffled, a pigeon-loft yawns;
Silver birds explode from the wings,
Whir & wheel & whirl around the rising maypole sun,
Laughing in a promenade more practised
Than all the jabbering moves of motley flocks:
Those extras—!  huddles of speckled sparrows
And startled backstage starlings on their props.

Half light:
The tree’s green lungs exhale goldfinches &
Dragonflies diaphanous in backlit gossamer;
Drafting their own migration paths, swifts & skimming swallows
Figure-skate on the thin, iced pane of the sky.
In the chorus robin answers robin
With a necklace of white song, dropping seed-pearl notes
As delicate as ballet steps on points
Among the gaudy, berry-beaded branches,
Among the spider webs that trap dawn’s light
In shivering cracked mirrors.

Daylight:
Now melodramatic blackbirds caught
In the surprise of a breeze
Exit stage right (stage fright)
In arcs of flashing dark fire;
Then settle—fluttering, muttering—fields away;
Meanwhile, deep in bruised hawthorn shadows,
A brimstone butterfly opens primrose wings,
Takes flight
On hazy, airy stairs
To boundless dancing spaces:

Light fantastic, feather light—
By bird light.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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