The Tuesday Poem: The Alchemist's Book of Birds from 'Drifting'

I've been lucky enough to be included in the new anthology of art and poetry put together by Harriette Lawlor and Agnes Marton, called 'Drifting'. It's a very beautiful book, though expensive - as all art books are.  The theme was metamorphosis and alchemy - change and revival.  So I wrote about alchemical birds, the Raven, the Peacock, the Swan - and of course the Phoenix, referencing mythology and an old text which has always fascinated me called The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, written around 1459 but not  published until 1616.  It was quite a challenge to get everything in under the 40 line limit, so there's only an excerpt!
The beautiful painting on the opposite page is by a major Russian artist called Vladimir Karnachev and you can see more of his work here.  And he has a Facebook page here.  The photograph is, of course, copyright to Vladimir and reproduced here with his permission.

from The Alchemist's Book of Birds


Bone for the beak
strained sky-ward in song
above the notched eye-
that-sees-me.  Totem bear
and aurochs, salmon and deer
scotched on the ivory
shaft for the shaman’s hand


is at the back of the cave.  She has come
here to listen to her inner weather.
This is the sad season; blind months  
paused until the green feathers
the forest in catkins, larch and brush-
pine and the peacock eyes of the chicory
open blue in the long grass.


feathers to cloak a shaman, the soft skin
and down from the breast, a cap for a maiden
who is swan-necked and goose-footed.  Raven
brings sceptre and book and will carry her in the black ship
to her wedding and will not forget
to hoist the white sail for the bridegroom
and the shaman will play on a flute
carved from the wing-bone of the eagle.

And the Phoenix

rising from the ashes of herself
a comet of burning feather and bone
giving birth to an oracle or omen
singing everything out of the ashes of herself.

© Kathleen Jones

If you'd like to see more poetry from The Tuesday Poets, please visit the hub here and check out what they're all posting. The Hub poem today is Pigs, by Les Murray - one of my favourite Australian poets. 


  1. Beautiful poems, Kathleen, with transformations everywhere, in feathers, song and season. Carvings, weddings, "comet of burning feathers and bone," birthing, flute-playing, oracles and omens -- so much inertia in these lines, such constant renewal.
    - Zireaux

    1. Thank you Zireaux - I'm glad you liked them!


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