Today's poem is by Melissa Range

The Canary

This miner's minion,
this drab rendition of light
yellow, feathers faded, slated
(as if there were weather here):

the canary, pitched
past pitch of countermelody,
chirrs its cagey call to the tune
of coal, the pickaxes
steeling themselves for the sharp,

the flat, the odd strike
of luck or a skittish match.
Tapping a channel with hammers,
the miners trail by threads
of song slanting through caverns,

shrill as a drillbit
scarping the rock to carbon.
But mountains shift their pilings, shafts
of rockdust hovering
in hacked-out pockets, in lungs,

between the feeble
warblings of a canary
harrowed to slag. When the air cracks,
the string snaps, the return
blurs—it's the foretold collapse,

core to conduits:
the blackdamp, the igneous
blast, the bird guttered from its perch,
the labyrinth tautly laced
onto a shuttle. Little

birds, broods bred for dank
and death, for lost myths—the maze
hot in the throat, the notes a pyre—
what beast of sacrifice
cannot guess its saving fire?

Copyright © 2012 Melissa Range All rights reserved
from Horse and Rider
Texas Tech University Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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