A Poem from As Far As You Know by Toronto's Poet Laureate A.F. Moritz
Names of Birds
Awake at dawn, recalling my father, crying,
unable to go to sleep again, and soon
the first bird sings. Despair: when the first bird sings
and the first light comes and you haven’t slept.
I curse myself: the many-noted melody
is its signature but I can’t read its name.
My father knew the name of every bird,
every tree, bush, and grass they played in,
every seed, bug, and worm they ate. Their friend.
I’ve lived to an age far past what he received
and I know nothing. Father, where are you
so I can ask you and have you give me the names?
I always thought I’d take the time, later,
to learn them from you. A scientist, he used to say
names are only for people. Now I see
birds have names and he knew them. Not just
the nomenclature of kinds — the name of each one,
a strange sort of word that exists only an instant
when the bird answers a man who whistles to it
and then goes silent, hoping to hear him again.
11 May 2015
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