Bird Caller

by Daniel Barlow
The Maelstrom
Third Place, April 2007
Judged by Bryan Appleyard

By twenty-eight I’d moved to Idaho
from Auckland, got the girl, the job, the car.
My Mum came once, but said it was too far
and never made the trip again. I know
she would have loved the way the sycamore
transforms the yard and those on either side
with autumn drifts. When Luke was born I cried
to know she wouldn’t be there any more.

Yet sometimes, through the kitchen window, dawn
bears rising sounds that call the winter brave.
I hear the furtive trilling of the birds
and catch the gentle timbre of her words,
her tutelage that lives beyond the grave,
reminding me to go and rake the lawn.

This poet set himself a difficult task--writing a strict sonnet in a relaxed, conversational style. He pulls it off by sneaking a strong but easy rhythm into the lines. The poem doesn't fall from its own fiction into excessive directness, a common crime with naive sonnet attempts. It is, simply, very complete and lovely. --Bryan Appleyard