My son has birds in his head.

I know them now. I catch
the pitch of their calls, their shrill
cacophonies, their chitterings, their coos.
They hover behind his eyes and come to rest
on a branch, on a book, grow still,
claws curled, wings furled.
His is a bird world.

I learn the flutter of his moods,
his moments of swoop and soar.
From the ground I feel him try
the limits of the air -
sudden lift, sudden terror -
and move in time to cradle
his quivering, feathered fear.

At evening, in the tower,
I see him to sleep and see
the hooding-over of eyes,
the slow folding of wings.
I wake to his morning twitterings,
to the croomb of his becoming.

He chooses his selves - wren, hawk,
swallow or owl - to explore
the trees and rooftops of his heady wishing.
Tomtit, birdwit.
Am I to call him down, to give him
a grounding, teach him gravity?
Gently, gently.
Time tells us what we weigh, and soon enough
his feet will reach the ground.
Age, like a cage, will enclose him.
So the wise men said.

My son has birds in his head.

from Inside Out: Selected Poetry and Translations (Polygon, 2008), © Alastair Reid 1978, 2008 used by permission of the author.


Alastair Reid

Alastair Reid Reading from his Poems

1A Lesson in Music


3Where Truth Lies

4Growing, Flying, Happening


6Once in Piertarvit

7Whithorn Manse


9Speaking a Foreign Language

10The Rain in Spain

11The Figures on the Frieze

12In Such a Poise is Love


14An Instance

15Outlook Uncertain


17James Bottle's Year

18The O-Filler


20Directions for a Map

21The Academy

22The Spiral


24My Father Dying


Books by Alastair Reid