A Birdsong Is – A Prose Poem Photo Hybrid by Paul Brookes


At the finish of the haul and heave over boulders, navigation of waters that want different directions, the undertow drags yet another road, gust tears at your fragile craft, spirals into the lee of rocks, the yaw of the sky until at a finish your scrawls describe colours in cave.

Run from the approaching storm with your lightning attractors, slip, slide on debris to find a hollow where you can watch the electric skies burn themselves out.

A hand takes you down from summer into winter, out of the brightness into the underland where you can hear water’s onwardness but not see its progress.  Know it carves out discovery.

A hand leads you into the dark, takes you into yourself down into the roots, the synapses starless rivers that carve out caverns of wonder in a sunless place.

I am in the dark all better for my finger tips that see a way forward through ridge and furrow, incline, sharpness of the edge. Skin attuned to changes in air, in stone. Eyes useless. Heat down here rises out of the earth.

There are no constellations. Reflected in your river, Orion’s belt does not shine, or the Plough progress. Your flow is ruled by the fall above ground. Sometimes your underground rivers dry up and your chasms gape open mouthed. Other times they are filled with a rush and sculpting.


These rocks hold a dissonance, clefts of open wounds that do not heal, wide as if freshly cut.  Nerves on the boil, heat rises like an abscess. Memories of atrocity by those who would take control —  do not rest.

Mountains are burial chambers, home to bones and burial gifts. Climb that mound of calcium remains. Follow the passages of the dead,  deep inside the rock sarcophagi. Visit the ancient, disturb the old.


Dark of the mouth. We both enter each other’s dark. Taste sweetness, bitterness, umami, as if we eat each other. I climb into your undiscovered country, wary. Other darknesses have said no. Their bread turned stale in my mouth.

What atrocities have we buried in the holes of our minds hidden, ready for rediscovery when we were looking for something else, or come upon unexpectedly because it refuses to be forgotten?

Hollow Mountains.  Mountains are middens, mountains are slagheaps, mountains are faces the underland puts on to face the day. Dig into the middens, dig into the history of digging, treasure hunters, gem collectors. mineral pitmen. I live above earth,  hollowed out by sweat.


Underworldy is behind your eyes and mine. In these caves of your eyes and mine, we imagine light and shape,   infinite metropolises,  a cold space. Warmth is overworldly, a village of touch, aromas of zest. We look from our underworld out on an overworld.

When he/she takes you into his/her underland you know his/her cold and his/her heat, his/her stone and how he/she flows. Don’t be distracted by his/her blue beauty for afterwards there is darkness.


Your skin is a memory site. Stories are a love/hate conflict zone. Markings layer on one another, an insistence on how they should be remembered. The hollow lands of your head insist some people are inhuman, when all are human. Kindness is not given easily when it is easy to.

You must learn how to read the sedimentary text of the memory stone under your finger-tips, taste the texture of grit, follow the curves and hollows, learn new terms, use language differently.

The invisible cities in your eyes, their streets lined with recollection, their fragrances raw and tender. Chains shout out their wares, your cemeteries are inside you now, crying out for their lost.


Your underland is neither,  and both,  empty and cavernous. It holds your past and future in the melting bones of ice, an atomic clock forever approaching extinction. We bury the clock unaware that its boom to our ears receding is actually approaching, our past rising to meet us.

You are the half-life of plants. Others see you bloom or either,  unaware, roots behind your eyes tell a different story.


Landscape does not rest. Below this calm, a site of violence coexists with generous life, lark song, ancient pines, a stream tumbles.  All is white light that sears as it brightens. Darkness brings a wisp of relief.

Other hands that pull you out of the earth, out of yourself, are a community, heaves you into sharpness and clarity, a slow recovery of senses not needed in the dark, a different kind of warmth.

A hand that helps you out brings you out of winter into spring, as if you have lain dormant,  afraid to crack open a door into an overground of new breath, take in the width of sky.


Every gust rephrases the semaphore of branches.

Bones ache at the climb. But as waters rise height becomes a blessing.

Paul Brookes @PaulDragonwolf1 is a shop asst. Lives in a cat house full of teddy bears. His chapbooks include The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley, (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). The Headpoke and Firewedding (Alien Buddha Press, 2017), A World Where and She Needs That Edge (Nixes Mate Press, 2017, 2018) The Spermbot Blues (OpPRESS, 2017), Port Of Souls (Alien Buddha Press, 2018), Please Take Change (Cyberwit.net, 2018), Stubborn Sod, with Marcel Herms  (artist) (Alien Buddha Press, 2019), As Folk Over Yonder ( Afterworld Books, 2019). Forthcoming Khoshhali with Hiva Moazed (artist), Our Ghost’s Holiday (Final book of threesome “A Pagan’s Year”) . He is a contributing writer of Literati Magazine and Editor of Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: thewombwellrainbow.wordpress.com. Recently had work broadcast on BBC Radio 3 The Verb.

Banner, all images & text, “A Birdsong Is”, by Paul Brookes. The work is inspired by Robert McFarlane’s Underland (2019) . For more of Paul’s work on ‘deep time’, see Black Bough’s forthcoming project on this theme at twitter: @blackboughpoems

Text edits and page design: Robert Frede Kenter

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