Literary Hub

‘Fatal Light Awareness,’ A Poem by Margaret Atwood

A thrush crashed into my window:
one lovely voice the less
killed by glass as mirror—

a rich magician’s illusion of trees—
and by my laziness:
Why didn’t I hang the lattice?

Up there in the night air
among the high-rises, music dies
as you fire up your fake sunrises:
your light is the birds’ last darkness.

All over everywhere
their feathers are falling—
warm, not like snow—
though melting away.

We are a dying symphony.
No bird knows this,
but us—we know

what our night magic does.
Our dark light magic.

Arctic tern


Rufous-crested coquette

Violet tailed sylph

Bald eagle


“Fatal Light Awareness” by Margaret Atwood first appeared in Bringing Back the Birds: Exploring Migration and Preserving Birdscapes Throughout the Americas (2019), from American Bird Conservancy and nonprofit publisher Braided River. Published with permission. All photos by Owen Deutsch.

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