Poem of the week this week comes from Pascale Petit’s Fauverie, published by Seren. Fauverie was shortlisted for the 2014 T. S. Eliot Prize. You can hear Pascale reading from this collection here.
‘Portrait of My Father as a Bird Fancier’
The man with an aviary – the one
sparrows follow as he shuffles along,
helping him with caresses of their wings.
The one a nightingale serenades
just because he’s in pain – that’s
the father I choose, not the man
who thrusts red-hot prongs in their eyes
so their songs will carry for miles.
He is not the kind to tie their wings. No.
My father’s nightingale will pine for him
when he dies. My Papa
with a warbler on each shoulder
and a linnet on his head, the loner
even crows chatter to. He does not
cut the nerves of their tongues
so they will sing sweeter.
When my father’s bullfinch has a bad dream
only his voice can calm it.
The hoopoe warms itself on his stove.
It leaps in the air when he wakes
and rubs its breast against his face.
It can tell what mood he’s in at a glance
and will raise its crest in alarm
if Papa struggles for breath.
My father’s chaffinch can bring him
all the birdsong from the wood.
He does not glue its eyelids
shut so it will sing night and day.
He does not make canaries trill so loud
that the tiny branches of their lungs
burst. I am sure of this, though I am just
an ounce in the fist of his hand.