Birdsong for Two Voices

A spiral ascending the morning,

climbing by means of a song into the sun,

to be sung reciprocally by two birds at intervals

in the same tree but not quite in time.

A song that assembles the earth

out of nine notes and silence.

out of the unformed gloom before dawn

where every tree is a problem to be solved by birdsong.

Crex Crex Corcorovado,

letting their pieces fall where they may,

every dawn divides into the distinct

misgiving between alternate voices

sung repeatedly by two birds at intervals

out of nine notes and silence.

while the sun, with its fingers to the earth,

as the sun proceeds so it gathers instruments:

it gathers the yard with its echoes and scaffolding sounds,

it gathers the swerving away sound of the road,

it gathers the rever shivering in a wet field,

it gathers the three small bones in the dark of the eardrum;

it gathers the big bass silence of clouds

and the mind whispering in its shell

and all trees, with their ears to the air,

seeking a steady state and singing it over till it settles.

- Alice Oswald


last night at the joint of dawn,

an owl’s call opened the darkness

miles away, more than a world beyond this room

and immediately, I was in the woods again,

poised, seeing my eyes seen,

hearing my listening heard

under a huge tree improvised by fear

dead brush falling then a star

straight through to God

founded and fixed the wood

then out, until it touched the town’s lights,

an owl’s elsewhere swelled and questioned

twice, like you might lean and strike

two matches in the wind

- Alice Oswald

Woods etc

footfall, which is a means so steady

and in small sects wanders through the mind

unnoticed, because it beats constantly,

sweeping together the loose stacks of sound

I remember walking once into increasing

woods,my hearing like a widening wound.

first your voice and then the rustling ceasing.

the last glow of rain dead in the ground

that my feet kept time with the sun’s imaginary

changing position, hoping it would rise

suddenly from scattered parts of my body

into upturned apses of my eyes.

no clearing in that quiet, no change at all.

in my throat the little mercury line

that regulates my speech began to fall

rapidly the endless length of my spine


the leaf that now lies being made

in its shell of scale, the hush of things

unseen inside, the heartbeat of dead wood.

the slow through-flow that feeds

a form curled under, hour by hour

the thick reissuing starlike shapes

of cells and pores and water-rods

which builds up, which becomes a pressure,

a gradual fleshing out of a longing for light,

a small hand unfolding, feeling about.

into that hand the entire

object of the self being coldly placed,

the provisional, the inexplicable I

in mid-air, meeting the wind and dancing

- by Alice Oswald