“Wake to the sun,” the rooster croaked,
First bird of the day. The world, light-flecked,
Chiselled its lineaments into form.
Where was all that fine light coming from?
“Trance at the wonder,” the second sang.
Whose five dry notes urged the ongoing
Afternoon on. “Why wake and stir?”
It asked. And asked. There was no answer.
“Live through the muddle.” That from the next one.
Not very helpful. It looked like rain,
Or fog in the offing. Twilight. Then
It sang again from an oak or pine.
Silence. How I waited for the fourth!
Time was a negative dipped into its bath,
The dark a fixative that slowly made
For every windowpane its window shade.
No messages arrived. No music bared
The soul for its penitence. Up the stairs
No hint of a footfall. The night passed.
“Croak by your hand,” said the crow at last.
Howard Moss, “Four Birds” from New Selected Poems, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1985 by Howard Moss. Reprinted by permission of Estate of Howard Moss.
Source: New Selected Poems
(Atheneum Publishers, 1985)