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Bird Canticle


Let there be multitudes of birds
          i
n the backpacks and tents under our bed.
Let them fan the small campfire of our sleep.

Let Carolina wrens nest in the empty
         
guitar cases in the guest room closet.
Let them teach all hollow bodies to sing.

Let there be brown thrashers
         
in our pots and kitchen cabinets
stirring stories of hunger into squash soup.

Let there be grackles rising from the backs
         
of dogs in every field. Let there be
yellow warblers in the subway tunnels

where dark and light chase each other
         
from window to rail to opening door. Let
briefcases turn inside out and become 

vesper sparrows. Let there be finches gathering
         
in the mouths of presidents, in the veins
of generals. Let them chirp in the ears of our enemies. 

F
inally, let there be barred owls in my grandchild’s
         
first breath, and in my last. Let them hunt
me as dusk consumes light and birds eat 

the eyes of the dead. Let them drop seeds
         
of next year’s crops into the furrows
of our famine. Let the birds, let the multitudes, 

beat their wings to the national anthem of each river
         
and every star.  Let there be scarlet tanagers
in my hair, hatching the eggs of my dreams.


Laura Newton teaches Business Communication in the College of Business at Florida State University. She is co-editor of a collection of essays, Between Two Rivers: Stories from the Red Hills to the Gulf, and of a collection of poems, My Last Door, by the late Wendy Bishop. Her poems have appeared most recently in Snake Nation Review, the Green Mountains Review, The Portland Review, and the Naugatuck River Review.

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