Sara Backer


Only when I walk the narrow trails
of the woods can I hear the past.
No background noise but wind
and the liquid melody of a hermit thrush—
the bird I’ve never seen.
I catch myself shouting on Zoom and wonder
if I should up the computer’s volume
to quell mine? The house composes symphonies
of clicks and high-pitched buzzing
with the refrigerator’s susurrus increasingly
asthmatic. At night, I hear my heart.
Listening pumps it harder.
Radiators tap dance in Morse code.
Jet planes fly lower, louder.
Yet as the world crescendos, people
are speaking softer. Their lips move
and I hear nothing but traffic
from their mouths, the noise
of motors, brakes, and horns.

Sara Backer’s Elgin-nominated book, Such Luck, follows two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt and Bicycle Lotus, which won the Turtle Island Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in Abyss & Apex, Asimovs, Bracken, Crannóg, Dreams & Nightmares, Eye To The Telescope, Nonbinary Review, The Pedestal, Polu Texni, Silver Blade, Space and Time, and Star*Line. Her honors include a prize in the 2019 Plough Poetry Competition, and nine Pushcart nominations.

Author’s Backstory: Instead of hearing lush birdsong on a spring morning, I now strain to catch a single chirp. While our bird population is quickly shrinking, the increasing noises of technology are thriving. Even when I walk the woods, I hear leaf blowers and lawn mowers that are huge polluters (‘gack ‘em, jack ‘em, and whack ‘em) that are entirely unessential. The song of the hermit thrush has an intricate melody and sounds like water. A few years back, I listened to my neighbor clear cut trees in his yard in late spring when most of the chicks were hatchlings. The cries and distress of the parent birds and dying chicks made me weep. I didn’t hear hermit thrushes after that.

Editor’s Notes and/or Image Credit: Hear the music of hermit thrush https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0mATRdzZSc and that ethereal quality is captured by Evan Lipton [Massachusetts Audubon: https://blogs.massaudubon.org/yourgreatoutdoors/take-5-hermit-thrushes/]

This entry was posted in Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *