Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

First Bird, Last Bird

Richard Schiffman

In the whole sky, just one bird
flashing like a live ember.
A conductor’s baton orchestrating dusk.
A shard of light genuflecting to the sun.
Surely it was the last bird of the world,
or the first. No other bird had come before,
nor will again like this one,
banking and swerving
under the circus tent of sky
as workers dismantle it pole by pole,
then the final swan dive of the sun.
But the deafening applause
has gone to our bird’s head,
and it continues writing
in black ink on night’s black page,
like a river that keeps on flowing
under the sea.


Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist and author of two biographies. In addition to Queen’s Quarterly, his poems have appeared in the New York Times, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and on the BBC. His latest poetry collection, What the Dust Doesn’t Know, was published by Salmon Poetry.