Kingsfishers: Sirin & Alkonost

Earlier this week I read a post about two birds from Slavic mythology, Sirin and Alkonost. I’d never heard of the myth before and found that it stuck in my head for the next couple of days.

A triptych of Alcon, Sirin, and Gamayun

I’m still easing myself back into writing poetry. This felt like something to think about. Taking what little I knew about the myth, I imagined the first emergence of land in a world of water. It reminded me of an event from earlier this year when a volcano eruption created a new island in the Pacific. This triggered a memory of an image of another where an earthquake created an island from back in 2013.


My thought was that this is how land is made and that at first this new earth is barren. It is rock surrounded by water pummeled by wind. A tree or pinnacle emerges, our mythic birds finally have a place to settle, they lay the eggs that fall into the ocean which seed it creating more land and its life. At least, that’s a sketch of my thought which I then put into the verse below.


Kingfishers:  Sirin & Alkonost


There has always been a vast.
Deep, wide, seemingly unmoving
yet in constant flux,
low below in the darkest cold
where heat lives by escape,
and where there’s only murk
haunted by white bodies
crawling, creeping, scuttling
to the one warmth. Perhaps to grow,
perhaps not. There is no rush.
Once uncold, rise steadily
through the deep to invent the shallows.
Here, then, it is almost.
It is and isn’t. Then is.
Is land. Heaving through
the skin of the world,
the rush of white foam,
salt spray a gasp for breath.
Inevitable but strange,
then, just as natural as anything,
the endless ocean has ended.

Wind abuts new dirt writhing
caught between sultry sun, fevered ground.
For the first, it is both
paused and persisting,
mutable in its thin domain.
An open palm skims the surface
biting, scouring, unrelenting.
This fresh face ages instantly, wearying,
developing character, finding niches,
becoming more and other than
out of thin air. This feels light,
gathering together reaching
up and out, down and deep.
Blossom and bloom; branch out, take root.

Now a resting place billows
asking birds to perch, take a moment,
nestle in. Let your throat warble
sounding some exquisite bliss
to the exclusion of all else.
This will call down another
sister, friend, lover
who will purl its own song braiding
the two into one beginning.
A long sphere rolled into the old sea
engenders a fresh surge birthing
more lands, other winds, diverse trees,
as this new brood iterates.

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