Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Rosetta Stone for Birdcalls

is the Rosetta Stone for Human Suffering. Caw = territorial
outrage. Musical flutings upwards = the days of summer are always
declining. Peep = hunger. Barrage of chips = desperate hunger.
Who? = the nest has been abandoned. Varied pipings =
I surrender my eggs to a predator. Grates & rusty
noises = the distance between us can only be managed by violence.
Trill = inadequacy of desire. Low whistles = difficulties with
lice, with bacteria, with fungus, etc.

No such stone ever hewn would translate lightning or torrent
a million years elicits. No such stone would bear the
incisions of the master's awl.
Such a stone would serve instead as instruction manual for building
pyramids & museums.

When the accipiter in its suicidal plummet snatches the finch,
what instrument measures the strum of the vibrating airs? Who sees
the God who plucks this lute?


From Depth Theology © 2006 by Peter O'Leary. Published by the University of Georgia Press and used by permission.


Peter O'Leary

Peter O'Leary is the author of six books of poetry, most recently, The Sampo (Cultural Society, 2016). With poet and translator John Tipton, he directs the poetry press Verge Books, and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and University of Chicago. He lives in Oak Park, Illinois.


The Sampo (Cultural Society, 2016)
Phosphorescence of Thought (Cultural Society, 2013)
Luminous Epinoia (Cultural Society, 2010)
Depth Theology (University of Georgia Press, 2006)
A Mystical Theology of the Limbic Fissure (Dos Madres Press, 2005)
Watchfulness (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001)

Thick and Dazzling Darkness: Religious Poetry in a Secular Age (Columbia University Press, 2017)
Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan and the Poetry of Illness (Wesleyan University Press, 2002)


Date Published: 2006-01-01

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