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Green Soul

Although there are several possibilities,
I could not be sure
of the bird’s name in the bird book
(not written by birds,
and me no expert) not to mention the bird’s name
in the bird’s own tongue we could not repeat
for the shape and chisel of sounds

in their language so unlike our own.
I have heard a bird laugh and one full of praise
for the sun and another one’s voice afraid
warning me (or the crow) to stay away
from her nest, and another with a cry so piercing
quiet (I could not let it out of my head) about the spirit
of her species brought low by humans into a gold mine
situation on earth where they’d lived longer than we
had, before the last ice age with their dinosaur cousins.

You moved to pick the green fellow up on the edge
of a shovel (afraid to snap a frightened wing in capturing
her in cupped hands – the bird could have been ‘him,’
the green quite vivid) but he flit to the branch above
and so I think the green soul was merely tired out

after navigating over cities and skyscrapers
confusing lights and changed terrain (a creek
with reeds dug up, now a muddy canal) resting
between flights on his long journey to the south.
Or maybe he ate some seed brittle with glitter
of some fungicide, all that was left
in the combined field. Although
there are several possibilities
we could not be too sure…

A sleek green body light as a feather, hollow-boned
but pulsing spirited with small sad peepers,
half shut and giving up, I feared
as I peered down at her.

© gillian harding-russell
Regina, Saskatchewan

First published in Grain, Spring 2020

Photo Credit:

A male Tennessee Warbler pauses on fall migration. Brian Plunkett photo, Wikimedia Commons.

Did you know ..

Tennessee Warblers are small, delicate-looking birds that breed in the boreal forest and winter in Central and South America, settling in coastal areas and on islands around the Caribbean region. They beat their tiny wings through Saskatchewan twice a year on these epic migratory journeys.

Author: gillian harding-russell

gillian harding-russell’s most recent two poetry collections, long in writing but published quite close together, include In Another Air (Radiant Press, 2019) and Uninterrupted (Ekstasis Editions, 2020). She has a very short chapbook called a ‘holm’ titled Megrim (The Alfred Gustav Press) coming out this spring 2021. She has been shortlisted three times for Exile’s Gwendolyn MacEwen chapbook award, and in 2015 won second place with the poem sequence Proud Men Do Not Listen and in 2016 won first place for a poem sequence Making Sense. More about gillian here.