Bring me the birds of Rhiannon—
the ones that rouse the dead and make
the living sleep—to entertain me
that night. —The Mabinogi
Ram skulls I brought home from the fields
line the wall and survey the borage
that has spread wild up by the house,
its flowers blue and star-shaped,
stamens sharp and black as beaks.
The Greeks claimed the plant,
steeped in wine, would bring forgetfulness.
I uproot dockands and spreading grass
by the stone steps. When I lean too close,
the leaves, furred and fluted, chafe my neck.
Wind barrels off the bay, clattering bones
against the wall. What they guard now
is space, but they shield it stubbornly
as they held the living brain. The borage flattens
and rises. Flowers peck the dirt.
Her birds sang until the listener slept,
memory lulled into a blankness
from which the mind came
to fill the watchful skull.
Katherine Robinson has an MFA from The John Hopkins University, and she lives and teaches in Baltimore.
Listen to Katherine Robinson and Richie Hofmann discuss “Birds of Rhiannon” on our Contributors in Conversation podcast.