Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This poem is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.

In Praise Of Birds Vahni Capildeo
In praise of high-contrast birds, purple bougainvillea thicketing the golden oriole.

In praise of civic birds, vultures cleansing the valleys, hummingbird logos on the tails of propeller planes; in praise of adaptable birds, the herring gull that demonstrates its knowledge of how to use a box junction, and seems to want to cross the road.

In praise of birds eaten by aeroplane engines; in praise of birds trained to hunt drones; in praise of birds that, having nothing to do with human processes, crash aeroplanes.

In praise of suicidal birds, brown ground doves forgetful of wingèdness, in front of cars, slowly crossing the road.

In praise of perse birds like fish smashing out of a bowl.

In praise of talk being cheep, and in praise of men who shut up about birds.

In praise of birds of death and communication, Garuda the almost-but-more-than-an-eagle vehicle of the darkly bejewelled and awfully laughing Lord of Death.

In praise of badly drawn birds.

In praise of white egrets, sitting on mud, hippos, and lines about old age.

In praise of Old English birds of exile, the gannet’s laughter, swathes of remembered seabirds booming and chuckling, the urgent cuckoo blazing on about summer, mournful and mindblowing, driving the sailor over the edge towards impossible targets, scornful of gardens, salty about city life – I can’t stand not setting off; far is seldom far enough.

In praise of a turn of good cluck.

In praise of the high-dancing birds carried on the heads of masqueraders and built by wirebenders to carry the spirit of an archipelago of more than seven thousand isles.

In praise of grackles quarrelling on the lawn.

In praise of unbeautiful birds abounding in Old Norse, language of scavenging ravens, thought and memory, a treacherous duo. The giantess down from the mountain complained – I couldn’t sleep in a coastal bed because of the yammering of waterfowl. Every morning that blasted seagull wakes me.

In praise of the peacocks invading the car park at the Viking conference in York, warming their spread tails on the bodies of cars.

In praise of the early bird who liberates the dewy worm from glaucous grass.

In praise of birds of timetelling: green-rumped parrots for morning, kiskadees dipping at night: and the absence of birds of timetelling, the unreeled horror of humanly meaningless time.

In praise of the bird of the soul that flies out when the body is molested, and in praise of that bird recalling the abuse room as if perched on the highest point of the pinewood press.

In praise of the blueblack grassquit, which is inky and small.

In praise of the albatross, in praise of the double doors to a swimming baths hall.

In praise of birds of concussion, notes in the air being all the brain can cope with.

In praise of birds as edible and in praise of birds as angels and in praise of birds as stones and in praise of Thoth the Ibis.

In praise of the birds of climate change, forest warblers bringing a new song to the suburbs, late-leaving Arctic tern teenagers blizzarding the beach.

In praise of ducking and diving, and without praise of the cruelty of quills.

In praise of birds that are not punctuation, that are not calendars, that are not words.

In praise of birds that occupy and disrupt a lyrical musical staff.

In praise of birds that singing still do shit, shitting ever singing, above a low-rent skylight, on a diet of chips.

In praise of triangulation and three unseen corncrakes by whose calls guests may recognize the way to the house on the tipsy hill.

In praise of increasingly grotesque fossil remains of proto-birds, and the discovery of normality as never having been such.

In praise of birds plucked for dream armour, flame fur, plate plume, and in praise of women who fight like cranes and swans.

In praise of thump and slime.

In praise of fine feathers, prophecies, and export regulations.

In praise of Quetzalcoatl. Tremble to say more.

In praise of the birds of prognostication, gutted, magnetic, or altering their calls.

In praise of rare and less showy doctors refraining from labelling immigrants as insane or aggressive, as more regularly spotted doctors may be observed to do.

In praise of Suibhne, driven mad by the dinning of church bells, yearning for his dinner of unchlorinated cress.

In praise of Suibhne’s flights crossing land and water, and Suibhne’s poetry crossing time and language, to and from, tidalectic, praise.

This poem is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
Further Reading: - Vahni Capildeo More Poems by... (3) Reports by... (56) Articles by... (2) Interview by... (1) Review of... (1)
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image