Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Bird Artists by Laurie Byro

The Bird Artists is Laurie Byro's first chapbook, and I urge you to buy it. She received both 2nd and 3rd place for the 2008-9 IBPC Poems of the Year. She lives in New Jersey and I first encountered her work when I judged the IBPC competition for three consecutive months and she won (anonymously) twice, with 'Wolf Dreams' and then the title poem 'The Bird Artists'. You can order it online at: http://lauriebyro.com

"In this spellbinding debut, Laurie Byro creates a magical world of rituals against harm. Precisely textured, transformative and feral, The Bird Artists has the force of myth and folklore but is firmly anchored in the quotidian. These richly wrought poems linger on and draw me back to marvel at their compact power."

That's what I wrote on the back cover. Mark Doty wrote of 'Wolf Dreams' when it won a prize he judged: "Appealing sexy and strange, it's a pleasure to read these images of transformation, which create a vivid physical sense of an animal body."

Wolf Dreams

I wasn’t sure what he wanted of me; the ice

in winter birches had made the forest slouch

into spring. All that winter I peeled

and sucked papery bark for the sweet taste.
I recognized him from his red tongue,

the furtive runs when I entered his dream

and we crawled along the forest floor, repenting
the dark. I had nothing to bargain with,

no deal to make him human. The night

was filled with briars and salt. In the summer
the air became thick with honeysuckle, slick

with mating. Beetles droned in messy beds

of clover. We slunk along, weeds stroking
my belly. I hadn’t yet decided which life

was better. Grass combed the plume of my tail.

The nights were crystal sharp. I waggled
my slit high, what was left of my breasts pushed

into a pile of decaying leaves. Who cared

how many and how often, I was not entirely his.
Eyes of owls glittered in the sleep of trees, tree frogs
sang in a green-robed choir. The moon clamped

its yellow tooth into my shoulder. I took the whole
night inside. What was to become of us? I had

packed away my white Juliet cap and veil for just

such an occasion. I held him like a warm
peach in my palm, longed for his juice to run

down my chin. Most nights I didn’t care about

the names they gave me. I held my fingers
out to him, felt the tug as my ring fell off, carried

my limbs down to the entrance of his den,

planted a birch just outside his home
as a token of my loyalty. I was free

of the chains of consequence. I gave birth

to his amber-eyed bastard who without hesitation
he devoured. When he becomes old and says

he always dreams of me, I shall make myself

a meal of him, savor his voluptuous tongue,
and suck all the bitterness from his bones.

He will not make such promises again.