Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird is a musical enigma to me. His 2005 and 2007 albums -- The Mysterious Productions of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha, respectively -- while consistently daring and ingenuous in surprising ways, have never quite grabbed hold of me for the duration of the entire work, or for much time afterward, beyond a few sings each. However, his album from earlier this year, Noble Beast -- to which my friend Reid Overall graciously introduced me this past May, as we sat in his truck at 2:00 am in front of Abilene's own Starbucks, without a doubt the ideal time and place and circumstances for any musical reacquaintance -- has done the trick. The song below in particular, "Effigy," in both its lyrics and music, captures perfectly the impossible balance Bird somehow manages on Noble Beast between his peculiar style, his idiosyncratic poetry, and the indefatigable beauty resulting therefrom. Every so often, if the poem is from a song, I commend a trip to iTunes to download the song; this is one of those times.

My own poem afterward is, unsurprisingly, a continuation of my recent infatuation with trees. Atlanta is filled with them, and no non-natural populated place as much as Emory University. I am unapologetically, then, as you might imagine, that guy who, when walking to and fro between general and theological libraries, nose planted in some thick book, stops, realizing where he is, and slowly lifts his eyes higher and higher upward, realizing he is walking at the feet of God's created giants. I will stand there, staring aghast in utter shock, mouth agape, with no sense for time or destination, indefinitely. I have seen these trees hundreds of times by now, and I simply cannot get over them (not to mention the fact that I have now seen them through four seasons!). And so as I walked among these old friends this past week I realized that I am quickly losing the ability to pass by them without stopping or without immediately writing a poem, or both.

Such is God's gift of creation. What a blessing it is to live in this world.

- - - - - - -


By Andrew Bird

If you come to find me affable
Build a replica for me
Would the idea to you be laughable
Of a pale facsimile?

So will you come to burn an effigy?
It should keep the flies away
And when you long to burn this effigy
It should be of the hours that slip away, slip away

It could be you, it could be me
Working the door, drinking for free
Carrying on with your conspiracies
Filling the room with a sense of unease

Fake conversations on a nonexistent telephone
Like the words of a man who's spent a little too much time alone
When one has spent too much time alone

- - - - - - -

Arboreal Affection

The branches of the tree
Spiral out like arms of an
Octopus, stretched long and
Barky thick, breathing bright
Air and stretching toward, not
Repelling, the source of
All life. The way he spins
About himself, though still
To the untrained pupil,
Must make his mother proud.

She happily peers o'er
With a sappy burst of
Feathery leaves, and gapes
At the majesty of
What was once a mere seed
Hanging serenely on
Her limb. She thinks me when
She sees me, smiles and points,
Sees that I cannot not
Stop, sees that for me to
See her son, or any
Tree, is poetry, is
Divine command to halt,
Is silence, grandeur, time,
Demanding words to name
This agéd mystery.

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