Four Birds

By Howard Moss 1922–1987 Howard Moss
“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)

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Poet Howard Moss 1922–1987

Subjects Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Howard  Moss

Biography

Howard Moss was the poetry editor of the New Yorker for almost forty years. In that influential capacity, this quiet, unassuming man was one of the key figures in American letters in the late twentieth century, boosting the careers of many young poets by publishing their work in one of the few mass circulation magazines which bought poetry and paid well for it. Writing in World Literature Today, Ashley Brown observed that "it . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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