from Strange Birds; Twitching Birds

Sylvia Legris

copyright ©Sylvia Legris, 2005


Unshakable birds! (Being followed? Being watched?) Run run but never escape the flutter of wings in your chest.

Demon-faced birds stare daggers from building ledges and at every corner you turn (every corner you turn!) … Twitching birds (nit-crawling catastrophe carriers), Tourettic birds (odious-odious-odious), birds skulking in turrets (Stone-Feathered Gargoyles, your cries for help

just so much sputtering).

Featherless. Hopeless! Overwhelmed with bird urges and the compulsion to tic the compulsion to tic the compulsion …

Are you dreaming? Are you sleeping? (Dormez-vous? Dormez-cheep-cheep …)

Notes on the Poem

In a previous Poem of the Week examination, we have marveled at the methods Sylvia Legris uses to pack so much meaning and intensity into her poems. We are now pondering another section from the poem "Strange Birds; Twitching Birds" from Legris' 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection Nerve Squall ... and are marveling anew. In just a few crisp, jittery lines, Legris captures with unsettling accuracy the mental and physical symptoms and manifestations of anxiety. "Run run but never escape the flutter of wings in your chest." captures precisely feelings of nervousness, restlessness and/or tension, doesn't it? "(Being followed? Being watched?)" is equally spot on at conveying a sense of impending danger, panic or doom. The poem's staccato repetitions mimic, if not induce, an increased heart rate and rapid breathing. Having trouble sleeping? The poem touches on that, too: "Are you dreaming? Are you sleeping? (Dormez-vous? Dormez-cheep-cheep ...)" So, can we possibly enjoy absorbing a poem that can make us feel so authentically, almost viscerally uncomfortable? (In fact, could such a poem be distressing to the point of being triggering?) As one Goodreads contributor comments on Nerve Squall: "I'm getting a headache. I think that's the point."

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