Lyrebird Bruce Beasley i. The lyrebird’s on his tumulus again, scratching out his song made all of mimic-music, the strung- together mating chirrs of butcherbird and honeyeater. Midwinter, their mating’s long over so they’re muted now (fled is that music) and the winter-breeder lyrebird makes the snatches of his song out of their diminished things, their beak-snaps and feather-beats, kookaburra’s chortle, scraps of echolalic trill: lifts the sinuous lyre-bow shape of his plumage and buries his drab turkey-like body beneath the silver shock of its underfeathers and lets burst loose from that shimmer his spoils: whipbird whipcrack catbird screech, the cockatoo’s green freedoms of improvisational innuendo. Winter is icumen in. Cuccu nu. Sing cuccu. Nu cuccu. Jug jug. Tereu. Lhude sing. Lewd-sing. Al-lude-and-loud sing. A lied’s what’s sung. An air’s a song, and what the song moves through, polyglot and monomaniacal. Make me thy lyre. Bare ruin’d choirs where late the lyrebirds lied. ii. Listen, the song’s all over, even in ornithological dissertations: “There may be some lyrebird-specific macrostructure to mimetic song”: s o m e l y r e b i r d- s p e c i f i c m a c r o s t r u c t u r e t o m i m e t i c s o n g . . . But split the lyrebird and you’ll find no music (silver-rolled) only filaments of feather, and a lyre-interred, self-secreting face. Lyrebird, what thou art we know not, so many other melodies involved in what we know: mellifluous cacophonies of simulacrum. Teach us what scherzos and staccatos might be pilfered and still all thine (be thou me, bethou me): hail to thee, blithe duper, to thy lyre-bedraggled plumes. iii. He drags them through the dirt on Mount Mistake, dug-up grub-litter on the mating mound he’s scratched open like a tomb while the lyre-hen watches tail-shimmer and vine-yank till the forest shakes, and the “lyrebird-specific whistle’; intermerges with rapid-rip of mimicry (The tangled bine-stems scored the sky / Like strings of broken lyres) . . . One hypothesis says he shrieks the most strenuous songs he’s heard to show his mastery of syrinx muscles’ hard striations, but what she wants with such vocal virtuosity no theorist can tell. Mimicry itself may be, one says, of no evolutionary relevance after all. Darkling, still, she listens. The achieve of, the mastery of the thing. The bird would be as other birds. Singing not to sing. His melody absorbs into itself each frequency: camera-shutter, car-alarm dingo-bark and chainsaw-shrill so all his mind’s mimesis and the mimed fall irrecoverable into all-encompassing hymeneal song. I was single and pervious in my mind like a mound on which there was one lyrebird who mimicked of winter, in full-throated ease, trilling the inflections of a locomotive’s chuff and steam whistle, a baby’s caterwaul, and the long declension of all my silence afterward. Bruce Beasley is the author of seven collections of poems, most recently Theophobia (BOA Editions, 2012) and The Corpse Flower: New and Selected Poems (University of Washington Press, 2007). He teaches at Western Washington University in Bellingham. “Lyrebird” appears in our Spring 2013 issue.