Volume 10 • Number 2 • Fall-Winter 2018-2019

Joel Solonche


Outside on the patio this morning reading The New York Times, I noticed myself paying less and less attention to the news story and more and more attention to the singing of the songbirds in the trees around me, and I remembered that I had read in a magazine that the songbirds are vanishing from the world, and I imagined the day of the last song bird, which would be a warm sunny day in May. The last song bird is arriving from Central America. He is a sparrow or a wren, and is claiming a branch in the hornbeam as his own. And then he sings his song, and, of course, there is no answer, except perhaps for a distant echo, too far and too faint for him to hear. So he sings his song again and again gets no answer, and he sings his song again and again gets no answer, but it could happen that the last songbird, this sparrow or this wren, believes he is the first songbird, and thus is not discouraged and disheartened by the absence of an answer to his singing. Sooner or later there will be an answer, for sooner or later the others will arrive. But by the next evening, however, the last songbird, it could be a sparrow or a wren, is convinced that something is amiss, and he is discouraged and disheartened, and decides to go back to Central America, to find the others who no doubt have gotten lost, for they should have arrived by now to claim their branches of hornbeam and maple and oak. I don't know how the last songbird dies, but I do think he will die believing he was truly the first songbird, and that he will fall from a perfect sky of perfectly limitless blue.

Professor Emeritus of English at SUNY Orange, J.R. Solonche has been publishing poems in magazines and anthologies (more than 400) since the early 70s. He is author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions), Won’t Be Long (Deerbrook Editions), Heart’s Content (chapbook from Five Oaks Press), Invisible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Five Oaks Press), The Black Birch (Kelsay Books), I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems (Deerbrook Editions), In Short Order (Kelsay Books), Tomorrow, Today & Yesterday (forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions), and coauthor of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). He lives in the Hudson Valley.