Reading the Signs by Patricia Hemminger

bison drawing on rock
Bison Petroglyph by Utah Bureau of Land Managment. CC license.


As the East’s Songbird Epidemic Fades, the Cause Remains Unknown
………………….Audubon Magazine, September, 2021

Fifty thousand starlings swoop
above the marshes, wings drum in unison,
roar in the crepuscular sky.
Black shapes cluster, shift and swerve,
entanglement at play, then coalesce,
morph into a snake with twitching tail,
then giant cells that merge again,
give birth to prehistoric forms
like dancing aurochs on cave walls.

Roman augurs read these signs
to interpret gods’ desires: when to fight,
when to wait, what the cause, who escape.
What sibyls now can tell us why
songbirds fell, eyes encrusted, from the sky.

Patricia Hemminger
Patricia Hemminger’s experience of growing up in rural UK, along with her science
background and love of nature, informs and inspires her poetry. She holds a PhD in
chemistry and is a graduate of NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting
Program (SHERP) and of Drew University’s MFA Poetry Program. Her poems have
been published in Spillway, Streetlight Magazine, The Blue Nib, Twyckenham Notes, and River Heron Review, among others. Her chapbook, What Do We Know of Time?, is
forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

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