The Language of the Birds

Stephen Murphy

Sometimes, in that space between
the waking world and dreaming
As I lay there on my back
and I faced toward the ceiling
I would try to capture meaning
by the feathers of its wings
As a thought became a bird
became the tune of which it sings

But no sooner had I heard it
than its call had been and gone
And all it left behind it
Was the legacy of song
that left me in the emptiness
to stare at the abyss
With the certainty of nothing
but that momentary bliss

And for two full months within that ward
I lived inside my head
With nowhere else to go besides
a chair beside the bed
So I sought that bird for company,
for freedom, and relief,
As I fought to keep my sanity,
My reason, and belief

And the more I trained myself to seek
became the more I saw
As the less I feigned myself to be
Allowed me to withdraw
'til I learned to see that certainty 
and permanence aren't real
And that frequency of consciousness
determines how we feel

So I turned the dial from helplessness
to truly tuning in
From denial through to hopefulness
And found myself begin
To look beyond the prevalence
of human apprehensions
To find a realm of resonance
and positive intentions

And now within that space between
the evening and the night
Sometimes I stand upon the bridge 
in the fading of the light
Just to watch the rise and fall
of the swallows as they play
And to hear the heron's call
At the closing of the day

'Cause in a world where isolation
is synonymous with loss
And the strain of separation
bears its own immoral cost
I wish I had the answers,
and I wish I had the words
To encapsulate the wisdom
in the language of the birds.

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"In January of this year I became seriously ill and spent over two months in hospital. Almost all of that time was spent in solitary confinement and yet the only thing I had the energy to write were the first eight lines of what would later become this piece. I wanted to develop something around the themes of confinement and isolation that came from being alone for so long and I felt like this project was the right time to do so. The Language of the Birds is an attempt to work through the darkness of my own isolation and, in doing so, hopefully to bring others back in to the light of the natural world around us."

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"It's my honest contention that the fear surrounding this pandemic has had a more detrimental effect on our collective well-being than the virus itself and that we have a duty to protect ourselves against the propagation of that fear wherever possible."

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Once described from the Abbey stage by President Higgins as "a splendid, courageous and gifted young poet", Stephen's work is often said "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". His poetry has amassed millions of views online and, while he has performed to crowds in the tens of thousands on several occasions, he draws his inspiration from the time and space afforded to him by living a quiet life with his family in the wilds of rural Ireland. To date, three albums of his poetry have been released and his first full-length poetry collection, From the Sea Hound, was published in Spring 2019.