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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 12, Number 2, June 2018
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Claire Everett
Northallerton, North Yorkshire, England


Wings

I was, I am, I shall be!
      –Rosa Luxemburg

Once more the robin, setting rubies on the air, somehow bright, somehow plaintive to this human ear. Then the crow, emptying its craw of darkness; whether it does through joy or woe I cannot tell, for I have yet to learn the tongue of corvids.

Is this blinkered luxury listening to the after-rain songs of the birds at dawn, here, now, far from Rohingya, yet within the reach of another Cold War? In the pauses, it’s another time, another voice I hear. . . .

whiter than moonlight
poplars in the gloaming
and if I recall
the song of a blackbird
more jasmine than breeze?

then some other dusk
that dull, lacklustre cry—
lately, I heard it here
and learned it is the wryneck
who eats only ants

above the thunder
a silver key in the lock . . .
a nightingale
drunk on rain
Oh, wert thou here!

the cast-ron calls
of roostbound rooks
over the yard
where the prisoners bear
the pots for supper

little butterfly
if I take you to the sill
to sip on nectar
will you heed the black-cap’s tune
and remember your wings?


Author’s Notes:

Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919), Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and Revolutionary Socialist of Polish-Jewish descent. In February 1915, Luxemburg was sentenced to twelve months in Barnimstrasse Women’s Prison for an anti-war speech delivered to workers at Fechenheim, near Frankfurt. She was released in February 1916, but her continued anti-war work drew unwanted attention and she was arrested again in July of that year and placed under "protective custody" for the remainder of the war, first in Wronke Fortress, then in the prison at Breslan.

The epigraph is drawn from what are believed to be her last known words, written on the evening of her murder. While incarcerated, Luxemburg wrote frequently to her long-time friend Sophie Liebknecht (wife of the Revolutionary, Karl Liebknecht, who would also die at the hands of paramilitaries on the same night as Luxemburg in January 1919). The birds she glimpsed and heard, particularly in Wronke, were both a constant and a comfort in her confinement and she often spoke of them in her correspondence.

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