from Strange Birds; Twitching Birds

Sylvia Legris

copyright ©Sylvia Legris, 2005


Kitchen Hell. Recipe Doom.

Lose your way in eggshells and fowl drippings. Falling-from-grace Angel Cake. Burnt-to-a-crisp Devil’s Food. Bad leavening. Blood-curdling milk. And birds HARASSING HARASSING HARASSING you from stove to fridge and back.

Echolalic birds … TEA-KETTLE TEA-KETTLE TEA-KETTLE … Mimicking birds … DRINK-YOUR-TEA-EE-EE-EE …

they’ve got their nerve! Repetitious birds! Ornithological tautologies!


Piebird, ovenbird: Off. Off. Off. Check the stove again and again. Chicken grease on the element? (CHECK) Fear of fire? (CHECK) Fear of flame? (CHECK CHECK-CHECK)

Notes on the Poem

Is this section of Sylvia Legris' "Strange Birds; Twitching Birds" pretty literally calling out to be read aloud? How has Legris concocted such a strong enticement? Unmistakeably, part of what makes this poem fragment so sonically evocative is its compelling sequences of repetition, a poetic feature we recently examined as Di Brandt dramatically deployed it to build tension in her poem Zone: le Détroit. As Legris admits here, the birds she listens to and compulsively mimicks are "echolalic". Another aspect of this poem that invites reading aloud is Legris' fiendishly delightful wordplay: "Falling-from-grace Angel Cake." "Burnt-to-a-crisp Devil's Food." "Blood-curdling milk." Hey, they all spark great inspiration for upcoming Hallowe'en festivities, don't they? Go ahead. Try it. Read it aloud. You'll be giggling - albeit a little nervously - by the last "CHECK CHECK-CHECK" ...

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