Three Poems from B / RDS, by Beatrice Szymkowiak

With Words from J.J. Audubon’s Birds of America

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American Co.

I did not hear
a single single shot.

I am sorry to say.

Scarcely, one / pistols

 

 

It Is Nothing But a Song

Its tongue, twilight
of clouded season,

nests pensive in blue
mandible edged with slit—

larynx toward horizon.

 

 

Around the Heavens

We moved in silence, well-spread
wings flapping dusk and low

in search for the beginning of March.
We found the reverse / inflected

elliptical, outer curved outwards
towards their factories of belief.

We were wishes of elm or holly /
abbreviated. We were breeds

with claws resembling a human nail.

 

 

B / RDS is part of an investigation into the new environmental trajectory of the Anthropocene, and our environmental responsibility. The project is focused on The Birds of America –– J. J. Audubon’s iconic ornithological and archival work. Knowing that North America has lost three billion birds since 1970 (Science, 2019) inspired a process of lyrical erasure and reflection, to question the Western world’s impulse to archive nature and its heuristic approach to nature. My writing process starts by considering the text of Birds of America as an archival cage. This is why I resolved to strictly abide by the rule of keeping the order of the words from the text-source –– my text source being the Birds of America in alphabetical order. I then selectively erase the textual cage to reveal its ambiguity and the complex relationship between humanity and nature. As the cage disappears, birds escape, their voices inextricably entangled with ours. The “we” becomes equivocal. Slashes sever words, like wings or bird-shot pellets, reminding us that we are at a crossroad, and that we have a responsibility for the future of our planet.

 

 

Beatrice SzymkowiakBeatrice Szymkowiak is a French-American writer. She is the author of the chapbook Red Zone (Finishing Line Press, 2018) and was the winner of the 2017 Omnidawn Single Poem Broadside Contest. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where she teaches English and creative writing and pursues her Ph.D. in Creative Writing, both at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

Header image–White-breasted Black-capped nuthatch–from Birds of America (1827) by John James Audubon, etched by Robert Havell, courtesy Wikimedia. Photo of Beatrice Szymbowiak by Nicole E. Taylor.

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