The Singers

By Craig Arnold Craig Arnold

for Boyce

They are threatening to leave us          the nimble-throated singers
          the little murderers with the quick pulses
They  perch at the ends of   bare branches          their tails
          are ragged and pitiful          the long green
feathers are fallen out          They  go on eating and eating
          last autumn's yellow melia berries
They do not care that you approach          cold corpses
       rot in the grass          in the reeds
The gray-shouldered crows hobble about          the wren
          barely a mouthful          cocks her pert tail
and threatens to slaughter the white-footed cat in the bushes
          They do not understand that they are dying

They are threatening to leave us          how quickly we forget
          the way they taught us how to play our voices
opening soul to weightlessness          like the Spartan poet
          singing under the burden of  his old bones
to the chorus girls with their honey songs and their holy voices
          how he wished he could scoot like a kingfisher
lightly over the flower of  the waves          who boasted
          I know the tunes of every bird but I Alcman
found my words and song in the tongue of the strident partridge
          Where will we find songs          when the sleek-headed
mallards are gone          who chase each other around the pond
          the reluctant duck and the lovesick drake
The way she turns her head to the side to scold him
          whack  whack  whack  whack  whack          the way her boyfriend
chases off  his rival and then swims back          reeb  reeb
          with feeble reassurances          the way
he sits on top of  her          the way she flaps her wings
          to keep above water          the way they look
pleased with themselves          wagging their tails          smoothing
          each feather back in its right place

They are threatening to leave          but you may still catch them
          saying goodbye          stealthed in the cedar and cypress
at dawn          in the dark clarity between sleep and waking
          A run of  five notes on a black flute
another          and another          buried deep in the mix
          how many melodies can the air hold
And what they sing          so lovely and so meaningless
          may urge itself  upon you          with the ache
of   something  just beyond the point of  being remembered
          the trace of a brave thought in the face of sadness

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Poet Craig Arnold

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Craig  Arnold


Craig Arnold earned his BA in English from Yale University and his PhD in creative writing from the University of Utah. Arnold’s second collection of poetry, Made Flesh (2008), is “motored by vividly earthy language and disguised philosophical sophistication,” observed Publishers Weekly in a starred review, praising “sequences neither (quite) lyric nor narrative, but erotic and ever alert.” The raw, emotional intensity of Made . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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