A Cathedral of Birds

Watkins Books’ Mind Body Spirit online magazine has now published my poem, A Cathedral of Birds, which you can check out by clicking this link: https://www.watkinsmagazine.com/a-cathedral-of-birds Or you can read the whole poem here on my blog.

It was partly inspired by my experiences of singing in the choir under the heavenly Vesica arches of Wells Cathedral in Somerset, and partly by the discoveries of an ornithologist who used a frequency spectograph to discover that the birds build temples of light with the dawn chorus – read more about that here.

A Cathedral of Birds

All honour to the Crane bag of the Bird Mother,
with its Ogham runes and snake’s eggs blue
that birth the laws to protect the young,
and those who will later come along
to live under your eye of the Moon.

Our oak-lined groves were grown to praise your bounty,
and even now that they have become churches,
your birds still intone sonar cathedrals of light
that chart the course for each new day,
and will do for so long as the Earth is.

Your Starlings keep vigil like groups of stars
sparkling in their bright constellations.
Your Long-Eared Owl carries the heart-prayers
through the dark cloisters, swift as air,
from the sleep-dreaming congregations.

Your Eagle takes its place at the lectern
to conduct the Liturgy of Hours,
its hawkwind-breath inspires and expires
through the lead-slated roofs and copper spires,
with hymns to reach your flower-decked bower.

Your Martin begins the morning Matins
by swift-spiralling above to show
We’re all part of the round robin rhyme
of the tic-tocking Wheel of Time,
here in our nests and bowers below.

At Lauds, your Lark ascends through Vesica arches
into the heavenly fan vaulting,
a glorious gloria trilling on its tongue
that the Sun will keep its promise
that a new day will come,
its joy unstinted and unhalting.

Through the leaded panes of the old church Quire,
skies turn from blusher to butter,
with songbirds in serried ranks, brightly arrayed,
calling and whistling a dawn chorus of praise
to yourself, the egg-breasted Bird Mother.

At Prime, your Peregrine Falcon flies out
to the ledge to welcome the new Sun.

Your Torquoise Jay emerges at Terce
to chant the chapter and verse
now that the third hour after dawn has come.

Your Swans take flight from their glistening lakes
to lead the sublime symphony of Sext.
They soar past statues of stone-winged angels
to ring the bells and sound the Summer Triangle,
all down the nave and through the transepts.

Then it’s the turn of your red-cloaked Cardinal
to intone a slow aria, accompanied by a bassoon.
It is Nones, which marks the ninth hour since sunrise,
and so we have now reached mid-afternoon.

Soon long purple shadows steal across the land.
Most never look up to see that they’re engendered
by the wide-wings of your Vulture
who is flying in at this juncture
of Vespers, as the day you gave has now ended.

Finally, at Compline, your midnight black Crow arrives,
the incense to light and the candles to ignite.
He perches on the altar in full magisterium,
to croak out a caw-cawing requiem,
to bring down the thick velvet curtain of night.

And then your Robin sings the Last Rites.

All in honour of the Crane bag of the Bird Mother,
With its Ogham runes, and snake’s eggs blue
That birth the laws to protect the young,
and those who will later come along
To live under your eye of the Moon.

© Annie Dieu-Le-Veut, Spring 2021