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Books & Poetry

Poem: Birdsong elegy

Books & Poetry

This week’s Poet’s Corner contribution is from artist, poet and improv pianist Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad.

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Birdsong elegy

for Thomas Thorpe, 1932–2022


The magpies flock to the birdfeeder
from a blur of bluegrass and camellias.
I charm them one by one, cupping them
in my palms, and with the softest touch,
still their satin wings, and slip them into
the pages of my open artist book.

Swathed in origami folds, my birds grow
two dimensional, weaving through tussocks
of hessian and lace, swatches of pastel
and sable strokes, an enchantment swirling
in their cinnabar eyes. A medley of songs
burbles and echoes through the binding.


Somewhere in the macrocosm I sense you
gazing at my many-hued canvas, smoothing
its textures, tracing the throbbing outlines
of my avian tableaux. You reawaken
my birds a gentle forefinger lingering
on the lub-dub of each tiny heart,
as they stir on the page, gliding over lakes
of gesso and inks, navigating a patchwork of elemental spells.

And upwards they fly, buoyant spirits,
weaving in a mist of black and white wide arcs,
yin and yang, linking you and me through
the nebulous planes of our existence
we, whose paths crossed by chance,
so briefly, on this wide brown land,
we, who laughed and spoke and wrote
in birdsong.


When you come to visit, my pupils bloom
for the first time in months my eyes are
violet orbs, drinking in light, and you know
the signs are promising sniper molecules
are at work. I am back on even keel, a dryad
on the green, tending to my chemical garden.

I ask you to come explore it, and you follow
me into the pasture. Gilded gates yawn
on hinges behind us. In this pocket of freedom,
we pierce the blanket of dandelions, tumble
with abandon over quaking grass. No clouds
threaten our freshly painted sky. You lie back
and smile at the contours of your face,
flowering in the folds of my hippocampus.

A child refugee during the Gulf War of 1990–1991 and holder of a Masters in English from Delhi University, Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an artist, poet and improv pianist living in Sydney. A chief editor for the literary journal Authora Australis and member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project, her own art and poetry has been published in a number of print and online journals and anthologies. She was the winner of the Moon Prize awarded by the journal Writing in a Woman’s Voice, while her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her art for the Best of the Net Journal. Oormila has her own poetry page here.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.


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