What can it mean,
This twittering machine
We could just turn that crank
And hear the gears that squeak,
Their tweeting, croaking, birdsong beaks
And watch their heads roll round,
Their bodies bobbing up and down,
A childhood blend of toy and avian.
* * *
But something’s also sinister, are they
There against their will, tied onto the shaft?
Or are they crying ‘cause they lost their way,
Or singing for their supper? Do they laugh?
While almost featherless they still have hope.
It’s almost something else the painting shows:
Are they swallowers of swords on tightrope,
The trampoline or safety net below?
See, the collective of birds' noise without words is poetry.
* * *
Twenty-Five by nineteen inches, in a
Mat and wooden frame, and under glass, in a
Modern Art Museum now, but painted
Three years after Rosa Luxemburg was killed,
A year before Hitler’s Munich putsch--
Then caught and called degenerate and sold,
Hung, now, against the wall, it can not move.
One day, when the window breaks, the birds are heard, and someone turns that crank then all the paintings there will fly away.
This poem was written as part of the surprise ekphrastic poetry challenge on birds.
Eric Fretz has been a student of contemporary visual arts since they were modern, and not contemporary, and a long time reader of modern poetry. He is a published author of art criticism and history, but has only recently been persuaded to share his ekphrastic writing exercises. He divides his time between Brooklyn and Beacon, New York, and between art and politics.
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