My Daughter Speaks of Birds
My daughter speaks of birds, speaks in wonder
of their sing-song call and response,
their endless reserve of resilience and guile
in the face of all manner of adversity,
the sudden and startling grace of their flight,
which, after all this time, continues to
amaze those of us standing
flat-footed on the earth below.
She asks which bird I might come back as
after I have departed from this life,
and how she will know it’s me.
“Fly close to me three times,” she suggests,
‘then give out one call.” This seems
a reasonable request, provided my new
bird-self can remember the details.
Our ancestors, after all, believed that
the soul was carried in, and away,
on the wings of the sielulintu,
that the whole earth and sky were formed
from the cracked shell of a fallen egg.
We settle, for now, upon a common jay,
brightly handsome but unassuming,
vigilant in watching over its family, never
straying far from its wooded home.
We have, I hope, the better part of this life
to draw our fragile maps, to practice
and perfect our signals, our language
of mutual understanding.
Note: sielulintu — “soul bird” (Finnish)
by Greg Watson
Editor’s Note: The sense of yearning and love this poem describes is almost too delicate to address, but via metaphor and myth we come to an understanding that is universal.