Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

This is a poem about Christopher Columbus and his first voyage.

The Pull of Birds

THE PULL OF BIRDS

 Colón, son and grand-son of weavers
rejected that calling but did not
neglect craft (keeping two sets of books).
On his first voyage, landfall receding
(where was Japan?) he sailed on

 praying for a miracle to centre him
in that unmarked immensity, as warp to woof.
And suddenly from the north a density
of birds flying south, their autumn migration
intersecting his westward passage.

 At such an auspicious conjunction, his charts
he threw out, the flocks drew him south
across the blue fabric of the Atlantic.
Weary mariners buoyed by the miracle
of land soon, of birds flying across the moon.

Birds seeking to outdistance three raptors skimming
the surface of the sea and sending skyward
their doomsday utterance of hawks’ bells
tinkling endlessly. Birds speeding
to make landfall at Guanahaní.


from Over the Roofs of the World (Insomniac Press, 2005), copyright© Olive Senior 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Recordings

Olive Senior Reading from her Poems

1Moon

2Rejected Text for a Tourist Brochure

3Leaving Home

4Embroidery

5Lacemaker

6The Birth of Islands

7The Secret of Flying Close to the Sun Without Melting Wings

8Peacock Tale 2

9Rooster

10Hen

11Guinea Hen

12The Pull of Birds

13Meditation on Red

14Hurricane Story 1904

15Hurricane Story 1988

16Starapple

17Pineapple

18Guava

19Guinep

20Bamboo 4

21Brief Lives

22My Father's Blue Plantation

23Meditation on Yellow

24Gastropoda

25Shelter

26Garden Snail

27Hurricanes

28Join the Dots

29Shell

30A Superficial Reading

31Colonial Girls School

32Birdshooting Season

33Hurricane Watch

34Dead Straight