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Soundings

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The birdhouse made from a gourd is wired
to a flanged loop of steel and screwed to the southeast post
of the shack. Two holes at the top—near where the stem was,
for a thong of leather to hang it by, which long ago broke—
are now the fingerholes of the mournful wind instrument it’s become.
The broad round bowl of it makes a sort of birdly
basso profundo that pearls through the steel, into the post,
the floor joists and walls in two notes: a slightly sharp D
and an equally sharp F, says the guitar tuner,
which explains why all my thinking these days
is in B-flat, a difficult key for all but the clarinet
and this sudden covey of nuthatches, whose collective woe
makes it a minor chord I am in the middle of.
Nothing to do but hoist such silks as the luff
of limbs and needles suggests, and sail on,
the barely-escaped-from-the-cat chipmunk chattering
like a gull, and the mountain’s last drift of snow
resembling the back of a sounding whale. Hear the thrum of the rigging,
Daggoo? Hear its profoundest woo, its sensible gobbledy-goo
and doo-wop, the boo-hoos of the spheres, by vectors and veers,
by tacks and refractal jabberings, taking us deeper into the weirdness
of the ghost sea those prairie hills were the bottom of once,
this nowhere we shall not be returning from.
Draw the lines! Assume the crow’s nest, Pip. This ship
sails on music and wind, and away with birds.

Source: Poetry (September 2011)

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

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Soundings

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