The Monday Poem: ‘Birdsong’ by Chase Twichell

The Monday Poem is brought to you by Professor Jim Gormley of the English Department. Enjoy!


WE STRAINED all the fish from the waters
of the world, both fresh and salt, and ate them.
Pried the last of the secretive pallid squid
from their crevices and ate them,
sucked snails from their shells.

Next the birds, because birdsong
won’t keep other animals alive.
Mammals stopped breeding. We ate them all.
Reptiles lay starving in the sun until we
scaled them and ate their cold-blooded meat.

Most amphibians vanished on their own.
Drifts of feathers buried the shells and bones.
Now the insects outnumber us
two hundred million to one.
The worms, billions to one.

Earth without animals comes before
earth without humans. We starve last.
The trees are dropping sickened leaves,
too few to cover us when we lie down
at life’s end, after the insects and worms.

Chase Twichell is the author of numerous books of poetry, including The Snow Watcher,winner of the 1997 Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, and Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. After teaching for many years at Warren Wilson College, the University of Alabama, and Princeton, among other schools, she founded Ausable Press, a publisher of contemporary poetry. Twichell lives in upstate New York with her husband, the novelist Russell Banks.