When I became a bird, Lord, nothing could not stop me.


               The air feathered

                                                as I knelt

by my open window for the charm –

                                              black on gold,

                                          last star of the dawn.


Singing, they came:    

                              throstles, jenny wrens,

jack squalors swinging their anchors through the clouds.


                   My heart beat like a wing.


I shed my nightdress to the drowning arms of the dark,

my shoes to the sun’s widening mouth.



   I found my bones hollowing to slender pipes,

            my shoulder blades tufting down.

                  I   spread    my flight-greedy arms

to watch my fingers jewelling like ten hummingbirds,

my feet callousing to knuckly claws.

              As my lips calcified to a hooked kiss




               then an exultation of larks filled the clouds

and, in my mother’s voice, chorused:

         Tek flight, chick, goo far fer the Winter.


So I left girlhood behind me like a blue egg

                                                        and stepped off

                                 from the window ledge.


How light I was 


as they lifted me up from Wren’s Nest

bore me over the edgelands of concrete and coal.


I saw my grandmother waving up from her fode,


      the infant school and factory,

                       let the zephrs carry me       out to the coast.


Lunars I flew


                         battered and tuneless


       the storms turned me insideout like a fury,

there wasn’t one small part of my body didn’t bawl.


Until I felt it at last          the rush of squall thrilling my wing

                    and I knew my voice

was no longer words but song       black upon black.


I raised my throat to the wind

                                        and this is what I sang…



Black Country/Standard

charm/birdsong or dawn chorus

jack squalor/ swallow


© Liz Berry