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  • By Sarah Spivey

Aoibh’s Children & Contrary Silence

Aoibh’s Children in Expectation


There is a swan-crossed sea

   where exiles flew to die,

where grey waves wash the greyer shore

   in ponderous lullaby.


An old king’s children cry

   their swan tears to the sea,

wandering on their wasted shore

   through long eternity,


for they cannot restore

   their ruptured dignity,

but stretch their savaged wings toward sky,

   above the swan-crossed sea.

Contrary Silence

I am awake within the night,

   and quiet is rendered loud

   under the vast star-crowd.

Hovering, they hum. Though lightning-bright

   they seem small, like a word

   forgotten or unheard.

I see them dance as they ignite.


They echo a beginning thought,

   and I search for my ears

   to hear while music spheres

the earth, until I think I’ve caught

   a bit of melody.

   It slips, eluding me

with words whose meaning I’ve forgot.


For what do I know of this sky?

   Far older than all sight

   these stars converge their light

upon a planet’s moment, high

   and far from me, and stark

   on the void. But in the dark

a whip-poor-will begins his cry.


He laughs. Perhaps I understand

   why he should look above

   and sing something of love

to the night. Primordial command

   disturbs his heart to sing

   with stars, and everything

which knows an orchestrating hand.


As must we, who trace words and tales

   between the lines of stars.

   They tide their reservoirs

of harmony where hearing fails,

   but some whispering spills

   through stars and whip-poor-wills.

In starlight old belief prevails.


Brightly they sing, though not for me,

   and I may know their songs

   are true, that truth belongs

in such laughing solemnity.

   You rupture darkness, friends;

   with you, my soul ascends

the night’s shores toward eternity.

Sarah Spivey is an MFA student with the University of St. Thomas and teaches rhetoric at a classical Christian school in Oklahoma City.



Feb 04

It may just be the Irish Okie in me, but I especially enjoyed the second quatrain of the first poem, and wonder if at some point geese came to be swapped for swans, and how that came to pass. Delightful.


Bob Zisk
Bob Zisk
Jan 29


Although I found the aural effect of Aoidh's Children aat times rough or jarring, I think one could argue that this reflects a thematic tension in the poem. As I have been writing this comment, I've reread thevfirst poem, and I think I am more sympathetic to its sound effects.


Bob Zisk
Bob Zisk
Jan 29

"Contrary Silence" is an interesting use of eights and sixes. It does not slip into the sing song music of a hymn or the rough rhythm of a broadside. I enjoyed the poem as an interesting experiment with an old form.

Bob Zisk
Bob Zisk
Jan 29
Replying to

Yes you are write. However, I chose the second poem for my comment because i found it more congenial to my ear (that's from one who, as a child, was instructed to lipsynch the words instead of singing during mandatory chorus). Although I found the aural effect

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