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 havent slept. 

I curse myself: the many-noted melody 

is its signature but I cant 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. 

Ive 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 Id 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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