“Lights Turn Off in May at the Gateway Arch to Assist Migratory Birds” by Wendy Videlock

Wendy Videlock


It makes sense in every sense
of the word
to turn the lights off
for the song bird,
that she may find her way.
True, too, for the waterfowl,
the barn owl, the cactus wren—
even the mouse prefers
a darkened house
in which to nibble her grains.
It’s even true
the fiddler’s tune
will only begin to dance
when under a subtle
crescent moon.
If not for the dark, no spark,
says the sparrow and
the meadowlark—
beware the ones
who fear the dark, who refuse
to look a shadow in the eye,
who have no interest
in the sky unless it’s rendered
itself so blue
it won’t reveal
the distance between it
and you. It isn’t the moral
but the heart of the story:
the raven’s claw, the falcon’s beak
the eagle’s scree,
the rotting little memento mori.
There is no wing,
no blissful flight,
no finding your way,
no resting gently in the nest
and nuzzling your little egg
without the calling
of the rest: the grief song,
the suddenly wan,
the fallen star, the weight of loss,
the lights that flicker,
and turn off.

from Poets Respond
May 28, 2023


Wendy Videlock: “I was recently asked why poets seem to be so fascinated by birds. I thought for a moment about how I could carry on at length about the bird as metaphor, as symbol, as guiding star, as constant companion wherever we go—about beauty itself—about life itself—about death itself—and then I finally just said, we can learn a lot about birds …” (web)

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