HOW TO CONSTRUCT A BIRD

A poem by Zelda Chappel on the transitory nature of life, exploring what it means to find acceptance in loss. Illustration by Simon Prades.

Before I knew it you were pulling clay from beds
and pushing it through fluid to their meetings
making tiny collisions, subtle shiftings of earth.

Anxious, I gave you my bones for scaffold, placed
them neatly in careful constructs and hoped they would
contain you, keep you nested, whole. Growing,

you broke your clay cocoon to reveal bare skins,
made eyes then took up your search for air. First
stretchings almost fail, the boundaries barely flex.

Nightly, I made you feathers from milky moons, slim
crescents of passing months hanging over us and watching
as I sewed them into flesh so they would not be lost.

I used the days to knit patchworks of leaves with songs
in their pockets and wedged them safe between ribs.
I’d wait ‘til autumn for you to show them breath.

As you emerged you could not be held, but needed air
so I took your tethers and cut them, opening my hands
to watch you take flight through my fingers.

Finally. Wings grow small in winter sky.

'How To Construct A Bird' was published in our 8th issue, The Birth Issue, which has now sold out. To ensure that you never miss a future issue of the print magazine, subscribe from just £10 a year.