A John the Baptist Bird for Advent (A Poem by PJ Kavanagh)

Dec 19, 2019

John the Baptist is a familiar Advent character. Who knew he had a bird named for him! Here’s the poem:

A John the Baptist bird which comes before
The light, chooses an aerial
Toothed like a garden rake, puts a prong at each shoulder,
Opens its beak and becomes a thurifer
Blessing dark above dank holes between the houses,
Sleek patios or rag-and-weed-choked messes.

Too aboriginal to notice these,
Its concentration is on resonance
Which excavates in sleepers memories
Long overgrown or expensively paved-over,
Of innocence unmawkish, love robust.
Its sole belief, that light will come at last.
The point is proved and, casual, it flies elsewhere
To sing more distantly, as though its tune
Is left behind imprinted on the air,
Still legible, though this the second carbon.
And puzzled wakers lie and listen hard
To something moving in their minds’ backyard.

P J Kavanagh (Collected Poems, Carcanet 1992)

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: What is “moving in your mind’s backyard” this Advent season?