“Avian Envy” by Rebecca Hart Olander

I am jealous of the syrinx, the ability
to sing two notes at once, to harmonize
with the self. In my harnessed larynx,
so many caught songs, edges cracked
and fading, muffled as if from behind
rows of coats in a deep cedar closet,
mothballs blotting out sense.
Then there’s mimicry, the way the lyrebird
can copy the chainsaw gutting its forest,
the car alarm piercing its canopy.
But birds should never sing those notes.
And it’s not like everything is a lark.
The calls they make to each other,
warning and mating, staking their claims,
it’s posturing in every kind of way.
Still, I wish to slip from my body, to be
a mockingbird, to inhabit new skin,
reedy bones, a different sort of plumage.
What a relief to stop being
for an interlude, to call out in new
language that elicits fresh response.

Rebecca Hart Olander holds an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poetry has
appeared recently in Ilanot Review, Mom Egg Review, Plath Poetry Project, Radar Poetry, Virga
Magazine, and Yemassee Journal, among others, and her critical work has been published in Rain Taxi
Review of Books, Solstice Literary Magazine, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Collaborative work made
with Elizabeth Paul is forthcoming in Duende and They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary
Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press). She was the winner of the Women’s National Book
Association poetry contest and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Rebecca lives in Western
Massachusetts where she teaches writing at Westfield State University and is the editor/director of
Perugia Press. You can find her at rebeccahartolander.com.

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