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The Great Bird of Love -- Paul Zimmer

Guest poem submitted by Clai Rice:
(Poem #346) The Great Bird of Love
I want to become a great night bird
Called The Zimmer, grow intricate gears
And tendons, brace my wings on updrafts,
Roll them down with a motion
That lifts me slowly into the stars
To fly above the troubles of the land.
When I soar the moon will shine past
My shoulder and slide through
Streams like a luminous fish.
I want my cry to be huge and melancholy,
The undefiled movement of my wings
To fold and unfold on rising gloom.

People will see my silhouette from
Their windows and be comforted,
Knowing that, though oppressed,
They are cherished and watched over,
Can turn to kiss their children,
Tuck them into their beds and say:
   Sleep tight.
   No harm tonight,
   In starry skies
   The Zimmer flies.
-- Paul Zimmer
1989, University of Illinois Press.

Paul Zimmer recently retired from the editorship of the Iowa Review,
where he worked for the last 13 years after spending about 10 years
editing the Georgia Review.  Zimmer has published several books of
poetry, most of them featuring a character named simply "Zimmer".  A few
of his poems have been widely anthologized, including "Zimmer Imagines
Heaven" and "Zimmer Loses His Religion," a poem published many years
before REM did their similarly titled song. (That Zimmer was working in
Athens, GA, when  REM got their start might suggest that the poem was
known to the group.)

Two reasons I have always loved the poem "The Great Bird of Love" since
the first time I heard it: 1) The vowel harmony of lines 3-6 with the
motion of the slowly undulating wings of a large bird:

brace ^ my wings ^ on updrafts ^
Roll \/ them down \/ with a motion \/
That lifts ^ me slowly \/ into the stars ^
to \/ fly ^ ...

2) The transformation of the speaker into a great mythological force is
complete with the "the" before "Zimmer".  My response is always to
imagine what mythological creature _I_ might become -- maybe 'the great
hippopotamus of love'...?

Clai Rice.

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