The two poems which follow are taken from Make Yourself Happy, the latest collection of poetry by Eleni Sikelianos. These particular poems were chosen by our reviewer Julie Larios specifically because they made her happy—and because they represent a level of energy, concern, wonder, and engagement (with both the beauty of language and the beauty of the natural world) that is typical of the poems in the book. The review of Make Yourself Happy may be read here. We also have an interview of Ms. Sikelianos for Numéro Cinq readers here.
Making the Bird Happy
House finches bobbing on the branches
like fitful punctuation marks, comma in a puff of snow, blobs
of feathered exclamation
in the cold. They
decorate the view and entertain
the cat with red-winter tail feathers and caps. But
an hour later they’re gone. How/where
did they go?
They’re in the back of the bird book
with low “burry notes’
The red-shafted flicker who was also in the tree gives
a soft muffled bwirr
contact call, a clear keew
close contact call, a soft lilt
Every beautiful bird is in Texas.
Lazuli bunting. Look at that bird’s
Say’s Phoebe says
…………pidiweew, pidireep, pidiweew
a phoebe never mistakes herself
for a bird………………she will never mistake herself for someone’s happy nest
“that’s not the way the bird would see it”………..soaking
…….in ultraviolet spectrum,….magnetic fields,……….sunset’s polarized glow
….a feather drab to us hovers in bird-world in pearlized light
yet when Parker plays “Ornithology” even the cat looks up
belief, the bird is happy
to the bird I keep applying what I think I know
Do Nothing Fancy
I shall do nothing fancy
to make myself happy. Help!
I dwell here because I do not dwell
among the dead. But sunlight
is lethal to some, so shall I
make a golden ring that replicates itself or build a golden
hour from which is banished grief to
make the hour so roundly happy? Some will bind
themselves in beautiful things and some
in chains. Some made a fetter from
………..– the sound of a cat’s footfall
………..– the beard of a woman
………..– roots of a mountain
………..– sinews of a bear
………..– breath of a fish
………..– spittle of a bird
but what kind of beard?
Name your letter….name it Gleipnir
(a manackle smooth and soft as a silken ribbon)
call it the wolf-joint………or call it the wrist, it is
where the wolf or the world will bite
(put your hand it its mouth as a pledge)
Now: How will you settle an argument with only one hand?
wrist…..wreathe….wrest…..writhe….wr – to twist
the human mouth makes the movement-sounds
twisting out of the bindings
twisting away from how
make yourself happy moving
freely towards the experimental sky
and language the false start to love is
Eleni Sikelianos is a poet, translator, memorist and professor of creative writing at the University of Denver. Her books include Make Yourself Happy, The Loving Detail of the Living and the Dead, Body Clock and many others.
Good poems, these. They give me a lift–the way good poems often do.