Tuesday Poem: ‘Bird’ by Michelle Elvy

I usually post other poets’ work for the Tuesday Poem series, but since I’m the Guest Poet at Poetry Live in Auckland today, here’s one of my own. This one’s close to my heart — an equator crossing among other things.  Some readers will have seen this a couple years ago, but I’ve not posted it in the Tuesday Poem series so I’m sharing it again.


(for Kirk)

It is quieter than quiet
a seabird lands on my deck
squawks his lonely squawk
It’s his hello but I tell him to go

I want to be alone with the toenail moon
and the shadows all around
with the familiar line
– surrounding
where dark night touches down
on black ocean

The wind is light
the sails sigh
and sometimes thwonk. But mostly I
am lulled by the sound of nothing,
the heave and hush
of swell on hull

Ahead lies the longest line
the measure of our existence
it’s invisible but real
parts the world in two
North and South: will they feel
as different to me as before and after,
then and now,
life and loss?

Will the South Sea soothe my Chesapeake soul?
will Acrux tug like Polaris used to pull?
will you come to me now,
whisper our history and feed my future,
warm my salt skin, will me on?
I hear you, brother. I remember when
you made harmony with your hands
I see your forever grin

The bird returns. I ask him
where he’s from but he flies away
and fades to shadow.
I sail on, west by southwest
the taste of tomorrow
on my tongue

This poem was first published in OCHO, a journal edited by Didi Menendez.  OCHO includes such a beautiful array of writing and art — check it out at the link above. I feel very honoured indeed to have this poem included in this issue. 

Tuesday Poem For more Tuesday Poems, go here.

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12 Responses to Tuesday Poem: ‘Bird’ by Michelle Elvy

  1. Kay Cooke says:

    I just adore this poem Michelle – so textured, so evocative … achingly beautiful; just lovely. Thank you.

  2. marydanae says:

    It is lovely – the language ebbs and flows in its stresses and line-lengths like the sea and the night and the thoughts – a lullabyish feeling in fact. Love ‘thwonk’.

  3. pscottier says:

    The image of the toenail moon is wonderful, Michelle, as is the logging of the sailor’s (your) reflections and thoughts.

    • Thank you. I like the moon’s many shapes and moods — all of which seem more vivid at sea. I suspect someone atop a mountain might experience the sky in this same way — as if you can touch it.

  4. ajponder says:

    I love the feel of the sea in this poem – it’s like being on the deck 🙂 Good luck with the live gig – hope you have a fab time.

  5. gurglewords says:

    Oh yes, a wonderful sense of being caught midway between sky and sea between, poles, between heart and home.Love the sounds in this and the movement of the waves against the boat…and yes to toenail and thwonk!

  6. Kathy Sewell says:

    I envy you. How I would love to put words together like you. I found this hauntingly beautiful and love the imagery it forms in my head. Thank you Michelle.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    The ruminative, meditative quality to this poem was so peaceful to encounter this morning with my coffee, Michelle. I, too, love that image of the toenail moon, and I really felt the repetition of the ‘will’ near the end of the poem, when the bird is about to return. Thank-you for sharing your own work this week – it is beautiful.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Oh, Mme. Elvy — this is gorgeous.

  9. That was me saying it is gorgeous, by the way.

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