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On my first trip to London, a very dear friend took me out on a nightwalk to listen to the blackbirds ... tiny creatures with yellow eyeliner and beaks, who can imitate anything -- babies crying, conversation, other animals. They belong to the same Genus as our North American robin (though smaller), and lay blue eggs.

I loved their mysterious nightly gatherings on rooftops and trees, discussing politics, poetry and lost loves. I am convinced they possess language and are ardent debaters. One morning, I heard a bird caught in the plumbing shaft of my building, calling, calling ...

I know this is very dark, and I apologize for that, but sometimes things happen so suddenly and so finally and so tragically. One mis-step and the world disappears.


blackbird caught, down the shaft

ringing through the building

calling, talking to his friends

chirruping her children

oh blackbird, my Europe bird

of Plzen, Prague and London

from tree and ledge, in human tones

holds forth the robin's cousin

cousin of my mama's robin

singing in a pit

echoing through the pipes and walls

of panelak and heart

sweet doomed soul, how far the light

too high; there is no purchase.

one mis-step and the world disappears

and the dark sinks its claw in the eye

One flawed breath while singing or soaring

or dreaming of trees that grow in the sky

one heartbeat, then nothing. Death is a seal.

no blinking or hand-clasp or breathing

a moment of error or anger or terror

that cannot be altered or dyed or made smaller

by drying or cleaning or speaking or time

and time is so short, when everything's lost

the light can't be reached and there's no hope of dawn

eggs yet unlaid and flights yet unflown

and hours to love and to sing the last songs

Greta Hansen, 2007

panelak: stacked flats, apartment building

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