Night Thoughts of a Mottled Songbird

by Kenny A. Chaffin
Wild Poetry Forum
Second Place, October 2017
Judged by Michael Larrain


Dark as the inside of a dog’s stomach
and brain going a hundred miles an hour
Why can I never sleep no wonder
my songs suffer. I keep slipping off this
branch, that don’t help and I can’t help
thinking that maybe this is all just a dream
Maybe nothing is real, Maybe some kind of trick
Maybe everything I think, everything I see, every song
I hear or think I hear is really just in my own head.

Maybe nothing is real…
Maybe I’m a brain in a vat
or a computer program
or just a fragment
of underdone potato
but, but, but, but, I am
therefore I think.

I think of seeds,
will there be seeds tomorrow
will the sun rise as it always does
will there be rain will I fly
through the air
tree to tree
twittering my song
hearing friends’ songs
or will they
be in my head
in the vat, in the lab
in the computer

Or is it real

I must stop
this
must sleep
must sing
tomorrow
stop the
monkey mind
and rest

Why do I keep slipping
off this branch, did some
fool pig-grease it, should
move to another branch
or is the grease on my feet
or in my mind
Will I slip from that
branch too

How can I sleep
How can I rest
slipping like this
Why me – is it because
I’m mottled – is it
my brain – is it me —
is it everyone could it
be the theory of bird mind
or just pig-grease inside a
black dog’s stomach vat

Please!
God of Birds!
Let me sleep
Let me rest
Let me sing


This is very clever. So many of us are plagued with sleep deprivation, yet who but the author of this piece has (perhaps while suffering his/her own bout of insomnia) bothered to wonder if other creatures lie or sit awake all night, puzzling over their own dilemmas and conundrums, slipping off their perches until dawn. Reading this, I could see the bird tilting his head one way and the other, puzzling over how it is with him. It’s so fully informed with humor that it almost becomes a vaudeville routine, or one of those old Heckle and Jeckyl cartoons about the two interminably squabbling magpies tapping off cigar ash and speaking out of the sides of their beaks. Except now both magpies are inside one bird’s head, making him tilt one way and then another in a dialogue worthy of Sam Beckett. These are matters of considerable personal importance to me, since I suffer from both obstructive sleep apneas and late-onset narcolepsy (surely the most surreal of afflictions), but they are of general importance as well. If songs and dreams emanate from the same place, as well they might, how are we to arrive at the former without access to the latter? This poem deserves to have its own Saturday morning kid's show. --Michael Larrain

  • October 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      The Day of a Girl
      by John Riley
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Night Thoughts of a Mottled Songbird
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      The Art of Not Being Descartes
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • September 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Rodent Ulcer
      by Jude Goodwin
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Wild Beasts
      by Bernard Henrie
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      The Two Windows of My Room
      by Sivakami Velliangiri
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      Giving Thanks
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum