Birds of Rhiannon

By KATHERINE ROBINSON

 

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.

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Julia PikeBirds of Rhiannon

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