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Sample Poems by Jane Alynn


Small Gods

Sitting outdoors at the neighborhood café,
pen in hand, I scratch on paper
like a bird in winter, trying
to scrape up something to feed that dire hunger,
the burning emptiness from being
unable to find words for so long now.
The mind a mere immensity of nothing.
And breath shallow as the dying.
Then from the gutter a sparrow
drops to my feet, puffed up, beak going
cheep cheep, cheeping loudly for crumbs,
a small fit welled up from emptiness.
Something settles with this divine, adaptive song.
And for a little while, at least, she renews my faith
in a life of radiant poverty.


Teaching My Bird to Talk, First Lessons

Ten years old, a bright yellow budgie perched
on my finger, outside of her wire cage.

She’s ruffled her feathers as if refreshing herself
before flight. I’m still in my robe.

Here, in her element, this figure of sunlight
would nudge the shoulders

of morning with warbles, whistles and excited
chirping noises, delivering, like daily matins,

her repertoire of heavenly twittering.
But I wanted my bird to talk, as if

words themselves could offer more light.
And for this, psychology gave us conditioning.

With the utmost patience, I’d scratch
her neck and speak in a low voice,

repeat the phrases over and over again
of pretty girl, I love you, holding her

ever closer to my mouth, each sputter
rewarded with a kiss.

She’d tilt her head from side to side
with that puzzled look of expectation,

infinitely receptive, I thought,
to this uncommon tongue.

I closed my eyes, waiting, in that space
held open for words, forever falling

for the all-too-often urge to modify
what’s natural and perfect, the blunder

of unearned godliness.
All the while it was she who had

the already sharpened beak, her craw filled
with that first ineffable light.


Starlings and the Cormorant

Not yet dawn
I walk in a soft rain
unprepared
for the cloudburst
of starlings
that drop
from powerlines and houses
by the thousands
into a spruce tree;
their song, twittery and bright,
is something miraculous—
Swelled from a few
once let loose
they sing with continual freedom,
no fear, no ambition,
running the gamut naturally
in trills and tremolos,
warbles in an unbroken litany.

And when I leave
the birdsong behind to return
to my quiet room, wondering
what to do with words,
I stand there in the darkness,
drenched, arms outstretched
like a cormorant drying her wings.
I try to hear, if there’s a voice,
what she would sing
but the silence is nearly perfect.