Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same

by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Eight floors below our wide-open window
As early summer sang to early dawn
And no breeze blew, a car crouched idling
Under a red traffic light that had spent
Most of the night with nothing in sight but
The rare bus or cab. I only knew the car
Was there by the boom of its stereo,
That sudden sound stirring me from deep sleep;
Her face facing mine, my face lost in hers,
We’d slept like the lines of a villanelle:
Apart, together, woven into one.
Then I rose and went to the window (how,
For some reason, the mind can’t seem to rest
Until it’s seen what it’s heard and defines
It), and I looked out, and down, but the car
By then had already pulled away, no
Sight of it but for its dragontail of bass.
I still wonder if this really happened: If
It matters in the greater scheme of things;
Is a poem the wonder or the matter?
A little later we started our day:
Coffee, the paper, a shower; she asked,
As we Sunday relaxed, if I’d slept well;
She asked me what I was humming; I stopped.
Months passed, then years, and I still have that song
In my head, like a bees’ swarm burrowing
Through the skull and finding there my old self,
Which now feels as though it once knew and loved
The city more in that rare heavenly
Moment that it and I were one, just as
“Wu-Tang is here forever” cracked the dawn,
And swerving swallows raptured in Old Dirty’s
Voice … yeah, Old Dirty Bastard, aka
Dirt McGirt, aka Ason Unique,
O.D.B., the Specialist, the dead one.

Published on July 1, 2020

First published in Harvard Review 46