Autumn Melancholy with Birds by Margaret Chula
“Autumn Melancholy with Birds” by Margaret Chula
Morning rain is tender, inviting me to slow down. How it taps
the leaves before their final fall. Distant mountains obscured
by fog are still there, even though I can’t see them.
Will Mother die in autumn, hands nested in her lap, knuckles
veined and buckled like the leaves of sugar maples?
The bird feeder outside her window is empty.
Once she told me she dreamt of dancing in her wedding dress
to a Glenn Miller tune. She woke up to cricket song.
I have given away all her slippers.
Tonight, while picking white hairs from my brush, I think of
Yu Xuang’s mother who was troubled because her daughter
talked to flowers. Not my mother.
Together we mimicked bird songs, ridiculously happy when
they called back—robins, chickadees, and even a bittern
hidden in cattails. From the front porch, we mocked
its deep-throated gurgle.
Childhood summers, a screech owl slipped its lullaby
through my open window. I leaned out in my nightgown
to reply, but the owl was too far away to hear.
I learned the mourning dove’s song when I lived in Japan.
Its cooing on rainy afternoons sounded like damp futons,
clammy and musty. Always in pairs, what could they
I know what I will mourn. The lost birds, their songs forgotten.
My mother’s voice that I could never imitate. The blue glass
bird she gave me on my window sill, earthbound and mute.
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Margaret Chula Artist Statement:
Margaret Chula is a poet, teacher, and performance artist. She has
published seven full-‐length collections of poetry including, most
recently, Just This. Daffodils at Twilight is forthcoming from Aldrich
Press. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Kyoto Journal,
Poet Lore, America’s Review, Cloudbank, Windfall, Sufi Journal, West
Marin Review, and VoiceCatcher as well as in haiku journals and
anthologies around the world. She has twice been nominated for a
Pushcart Prize. Margaret has been featured at writers’ conferences
and festivals throughout the United States, as well as in Poland,
Canada, and Japan. From 2010-‐2014, she served as Poet Laureate for
Friends of Chamber Music in Portland, Oregon and is currently
president emerita of the Tanka Society of America. Having lived and
taught in Kyoto for twelve years, she currently makes her home in
Portland, Oregon, where she hikes, gardens, and creates flower
arrangements for every room of her house.