Anne Stevenson

1933 / Cambridge,

Carol Of The Birds

Feet that could be clawed but are not ...
Arms that might have flown but did not ...
No one said 'Let there be angels!' but the birds

Whose choirs fling alleluias over the sea,
Herring gulls, black backs carolling raucously
While cormorants dry their wings on a rocky stable.

Plovers that stoop to sanctify the land
And scoop small, roundy mangers in the sand,
Swaddle a saviour each in a speckled shell.

A chaffinchy fife unreeling in the marsh
Accompanies the tune a solo thrush
Half sings, half talks in riffs of wordless words,

As hymns flare up from tiny muscled throats,
Robins and hidden wrens whose shiny notes
Tinsel the precincts of the winter sun.

What loftier organ than these pipes of beech,
Pillars resounding with the jackdaws' speech,
And poplars swayed with light like shaken bells?

Wings that could be hands, but are not ...
Cries that might be pleas but cannot
Question or disinvent the stalker's gun,

Be your own hammerbeam angels of the air
Before, in the maze of space, you disappear,
Stilled by our dazzling anthrocentric mills.
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