Stone Telling

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The Parable of the Albatross

by Sonya Taaffe

When I breathe, you can hear its restless feathers,
the great-winged wanderer of the sea-lanes
locked inside my ribcage
like a word inside a speckled shell.
The skim of the ice-white waves of the Southern Ocean
and the shearing rise of the wind over seal-black rocks
and the distance, the silence
made the language I speak first
before my throat closed with birdsong
and the red-breasted herald of northern spring.
The thickets are full of small wings and sweet voices,
the nests with delicate eggs, dapple-dyed.
Only the stranger who can match me dancing
and meet me balanced on the endless arc of air
will hear the deeper breath I take, unfolding
the full span of my ambition,
holding steady between the sea and the stars.

Sonya Taaffe's short fiction and poetry can be found in the collections Ghost Signs (Aqueduct Press), A Mayse-Bikhl (Papaveria Press), Postcards from the Province of Hyphens (Prime Books), and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books), and in various anthologies including The Humanity of Monsters, Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, and Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror. She is currently senior poetry editor at Strange Horizons; she holds master's degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object. She lives in Somerville with her husband and two cats.

Photography: adapted from Northern Royal Albatross in flight at Taiaroa Head, Dunedin, New Zealand, by Benchill.