Rite of Passage by Peleg Held

Rite of Passage
(or How the Owl Got its Pointy Ears)

I was there when the house cat stood
and let her whiskers fall,
hollowed her bones with a blackwood
wind and tendered in her crawl.
She beaked her yowl, let her questions sing,
asking who belongs to who?
And answered herself the very same thing
as her wings came working through.
She spread the claws on her last two paws
and, taloned, perched the sill.
When she looked from me to the dark lined trees
I knew she’d had her fill
of lap and bowl and the ringing bell
that once had tamed her through.
She layed her wings on the falling dark
and, lithely homeless, flew.

I sleep with that window open now
and sing to where she’s gone
I swim the dark between the trees
beyond the feralled lawn.
She is no one’s lost possession
I do not wish her home
I sing to raise the downy barbs,
to empty out the bone.
Black locust breaks the hedgerow,
the floorboards are alight,
the axe is in a deadfall fire
which will not last the night.
There’s music in the inbetween
I can’t tell who from who
I’ll meet dawn at the ridgepole’s end
and see if wings are true.

by Peleg Held

Editor’s Note: The surreality of this poem is beautifully set within the constraints of the meter and rhyme.

Genus Aerodramus by Peleg Held

Genus Aerodramus

“…one of the few species of bird who use echolocation to move about in their dark environs,
a somewhat insignificant species but its nests, made of its own saliva and are a prized delicacy…”

“Water is Life!”
Banner of the Standing Rock Sioux

“We will fight until the end!”
Graffiti on a shelled wall in Kobane

These nests we weave
wellsprings risen from the red,
the silvered sounds set firm.
The swiftlet makes its home
from spit, sweet laminae of terms
sworn into the falling dark.

A watcher’s brow, one grotto arcs
us moon to sun, a hunger marks us
one by one, each bodied word walking
barefoot bright upon the vow-swept floor.

These nests we weave, fierce stranding spun
of will which comes at quiet moment when
the first few are awake and all the promises
of home are passed in bowls
rim ringing every sacred name.

Song and air against
the nest-eaters.

by Peleg Held

Editor’s Note: Slant rhyme and careful enjambment highlight the narrator’s voice of protest in this poem. The last two lines are strong enough to act as a refrain, even unrepeated.

Trio by Peleg Held


Said the maiden to the moon
you bring me through to blood
silver, slip and swoon
over lamb, wet limb and bud.

Said the moon in kind return
my silver’s stolen sweet
I skim the shimmer shine
from a star that’s gone to sleep.

The waxing wane in the wires
crackled between the two,
moon slipped into cloud
and girl slipped into blue.

And through the wind-bowed wheat
the boy pursued them both
under tree branch, flare and sheet
by oarlock, dream, and oath
from dusk til dawn he went
never holding but a wisp
of the tendriled curving scent
or the seething tidal kiss.

Yet every day he woke
torn by crater and caress
and as musk sank into smoke
the night purred in his chest.

by Peleg Held

Editor’s Note: Some poems are meant to be read aloud. This is one of those poems. Pity the poor, deluded boy who never thought to sing his courtship.

52 Hertz by Peleg Held

A lone cetacean, believed to be either a Blue Whale or a Fin Whale, has been tracked and recorded in the Pacific since 1989. A singer heard but never seen. The whale sings at a frequency unheard of for any known species. It has gone alone and unaswered, as far as we know,  for decades. 

52 Hertz

By fathomed sound we count you round
five thousand knots a year,
across trench and rift and otolith
we press our windwhipped ear

down, upon the blue womb wall,
and fashion what we hear—
a soul charcoaled on bulla bone,
an unmanned mind drawn near.

At every checkpoint monitored
from every spec of sphere,
unanswered cries come in from out.
The world’s a rumbling smear

of songs of lonely firsting-fire
and square-pegged bursts of queer
tolling under dark sea face,
each scrawling rawl a flare

appearing in the lower skies
to mark each mutineer
or call some flagging will to form,
some leaper to the shear.

Songs of lonely firsting fire
and square pegged burst of queer,
soundings all along the wall—
motherfuckers I am here.

by Peleg Held

Editor’s Note: Type 52 Hertz into Google and a plethora of links appear, eager to explain the mystery of a single, unidentified whale singing in the wrong frequency. This poem does a fabulous job of highlighting the regularity of the call via form: rhyme and iambic meter broken with enjambment and repetition.

Listen to the whale song.