When I became a bird, Lord, nothing could not stop me
The air feathered
as I knelt
by my open window for the charm –
black on gold,
last star of the dawn.
Singing, they came:
throstles, jenny wrens,
jack squalors swinging their anchors through the clouds.
My heart beat like a wing.
I shed my nightdress to the drowning arms of the dark,
my shoes to the sun’s widening mouth.
I found my bones hollowing to slender pipes,
my shoulder blades tufting down.
I spread my flight-greedy arms
to watch my fingers jewelling like ten hummingbirds,
my feet callousing to knuckly claws.
As my lips calcified to a hooked kiss
then an exultation of larks filled the clouds
and, in my mother’s voice, chorused:
Tek flight, chick, goo far fer the Winter.
So I left girlhood behind me like a blue egg
and stepped off
from the window ledge.
How light I was
as they lifted me up from Wren’s Nest
bore me over the edgelands of concrete and coal.
I saw my grandmother waving up from her fode,
the infant school and factory,
let the zephrs carry me out to the coast.
Lunars I flew
battered and tuneless
the storms turned me insideout like a fury,
there wasn’t one small part of my body didn’t blart.
Until I felt it at last the rush of squall thrilling my wing
and I knew my voice
was no longer words but song black upon black.
I raised my throat to the wind
and this is what I sang…
Black Country/ Standard
charm/ birdsong or dawn chorus
jack squalor/ swallow
from Black Country (Chatto & Windus, 2014), first published in The Patron Saint of Schoolgirls (Tall Lighthouse, 2010), © Liz Berry 2010, used by permission of the author and the publisher.