Chimney Swift: A Grammar by Cleveland Wall

Chimney Swift: A Grammar
In my spare time I am learning
the language of chimney swifts.
It sounds like constant flight
and indeed most morphemes are verbs,
expressed as a series of dips and swoops,
modified by a wild flutter of siku—
siku, song of southern haunts,
the steeps of Machu Pichu—
which functions as adverbial phrase
and/or coloratura.
As with Spanish, I understand
a little, can read passably.
But to speak this language
requires wings.
I study as best I can the few months
they are here. The conversation
is hard to follow, as native speakers
are airborne all day
and roost in a chimney at night.
Round the old Masonic Temple
they gather at dusk and rise
to a crescendo before dropping
into spittle-woven nests.

Cl head 1

Cleveland Wall is a poet, teaching artist, and maker of things out of other things. She performs with interactive poetry troupe No River Twice and with musical combo The Starry Eyes. Her first full-length poetry collection, Let X=X , was published by Kelsay Books in the fall of 2019. She is also the sole librarian at Books on the Hill, a mighty twig of the Bethlehem Area Public Library.


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