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

Gannet

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.

More from Literary Hub

Literary Hub6 min read
Lara Vapnyar on the Book That Made Her Weep For Hours
I have to start with a confession. It’s not unusual for me to cry over a book. I choke up when I reread the scene of the old Prince Nikolai’s death in War and Peace. I tear up when Ennis calls Jack “little darling” in Brokeback Mountain. I start weep
Literary Hub5 min read
Why Do I Recite the Same Paul Celan Poem to All My Dates?
You were doing it again, my roommate Renee accused me one morning, turning off the hairdryer, sticking her head out the bathroom like a hand-puppet. I heard you Corona-ing last night through the wall. We all have material that works; sparkling coming
Literary Hub11 min read
Susan Steinberg On The Value Of Writing An Ugly Draft
Halfway through my conversation last week with Susan Steinberg about her new book—her first novel—Machine, I had to backtrack and slip in, “Oh by the way, I loved the book.” She exhaled with relief, and said, “Oh, thank you. You just made my day.” Of