Thus Spake the Mockingbird

By Barbara Hamby Barbara Hamby
The mockingbird says, hallelujah, coreopsis, I make the day
    bright, I wake the night-blooming jasmine. I am
the duodecimo of desperate love, the hocus pocus passion
    flower of delirious retribution. You never saw such a bird,
such a triage of blood and feathers, tongue and bone. O the world
    is a sad address, bitterness melting the tongues of babies,
breasts full of accidental milk, but I can teach the flowers to grow,
    take their tight buds, unfurl them like flags in the morning heat,
fat banners of scent, flat platters of riot on the emerald scene.
    I am the green god of pine trees, conducting the music
of rustling needles through a harp of wind. I am the heart of men,
    the wild bird that drives their sex, forges their engines,
jimmies their shattered locks in the dark flare where midnight slinks.
    I am the careless minx in the skirts of women, the bright moon
caressing their hair, the sharp words pouring from their beautiful mouths
    in board rooms, on bar stools, in big city laundrettes. I am
Lester Young’s sidewinding sax, sending that Pony Express
    message out west in the Marconi tube hidden in every torso
tied tight in the corset of do and don’t, high and low, yes and no. I am
    the radio, first god of the twentieth century, broadcasting
the news, the blues, the death counts, the mothers wailing
    when everyone’s gone home. I am sweeping
through the Eustachian tubes of the great plains, transmitting
    through every ear of corn, shimmying down the spine
of every Bible-thumping banker and bureaucrat, relaying the anointed
    word of the shimmering world. Every dirty foot that walks
the broken streets moves on my wings. I speak from the golden
    screens. Hear the roar of my discord murdering the trees,
screaming its furious rag, the fuselage of my revival-tent brag. Open
    your windows, slip on your castanets. I am the flamenco
in the heel of desire. I am the dancer. I am the choir. Hear my wild
    throat crowd the exploding sky. O I can make a noise.

Barbara Hamby, “Thus Spake the Mockingbird” from Babel. Copyright © 2004 by Barbara Hamby. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Babel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004)

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Poet Barbara Hamby

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Music

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Barbara  Hamby

Biography

Born in New Orleans and raised in Hawaii, poet Barbara Hamby earned an MA at Florida State University. She is the author of several poetry collections, including All-Night Lingo Tango (2009); Babel (2004), which won the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ Donald Hall Prize; and Delirium (1995), which won the Vassar Miller Prize, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Music

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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