Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Birdsong Tinnitus

The lovely Christine (aka Inwardly Digesting) mentioned recently that she suffered from tinnitus. This permanent presence of sound must be maddening, and I almost hesitate to append my Birdsong Tinnitus poem here lest it cause offense. Almost.
This was the first poem I ever performed at Liverpool's Dead Good Poets Society back in 2003 (in the days before Twitter - which gives the poem a whole new subtext now). I'm sure the first few words will have alarmed them.
Incidentally, it turns out that recordings of birdsong are supposed to alleviate tinnitus - you can buy devices that play relaxing nature sounds including bird song, ocean waves, brook and summer night from the British Tinnitus Association.

Birdsong Tinnitus
Tweet, tweet, tweet.
All the bloody time.
She was lucky, they said, to have
birdsong tinnitus. It was quite rare.
(Others had bombs and guns –
the artillery kind). So everywhere
was like a summer meadow, her head
rang with twittering which no-one else could hear
- except her cat, which perked a psychic ear
towards that invisible chirping, tweeting, peeping,
keeping two inscrutable eyes on her,
waiting for feathers.
She’d always hated birds – nasty
little heads and beady eyes, always
watching and pecking and crapping.
In all weathers and seasons each dawn
welcomed her with a cheerful chorus
that went on all day and all night
until the next dawn and the next one
repeating an endless anthem of joy and hope,
a fresh and innocent soundtrack to accompany
all the bad things that happened to her.
As her life grew bleak the birds still sang
their dainty cage inside her head,
immune from all her rage
- right up until she pulled the trigger
on some kind of hunting rifle
to silence those damned birds.

(c) Clare Kirwan 2003

First Published in Ragged Raven's 2004 Anthology: Dress of nettles

Added 7 Jan 2011: If you enjoyed this on any level, you would doubtless be delighted by Happiness Concluded from the whacky pen of Will Type for Food... I know I was!


  1. On my country walk yesterday I went past an isolated cottage, the owners of which had put feeders out for the birds. The noise of cheeping and squawking was almost deafening. I thought, as I walked past, that I would find it intolerable to live there.

  2. Love it! And thanks for the mention.

    Substitute sound might work for some people but not for me. The audiologist suggested listening to a Richard Clayderman CD at bedtime. Think I'll stick with the tinnitus....

  3. OK, so here's a search that landed someone on RA: "british bird cage piano." D'ya think they were hoping for a silent night, already? (At least they didn't land on a bird post . . .)

  4. Great poem, claire, I'm impressed!

  5. Dave - I used to have a bedroom next to a room full of pigeons (abandoned building next door). It was alright until I watched that Hitchcock film...

    Christine - You're welcome - glad you liked it. If I had to have tinnitus, I think I'd choose the sound of applause!

    Rainy - Love it! Sounds like an art installation. Did you 'retweet' this one?

    CG - Thanks! And a Happy New Year... whatever it brings!

  6. What a lovely... well, not life, but death-affirming poem. It caused me to remember this odd piece that I wrote some years ago:


  7. Hi Tim! - glad you liked - LOVED the poem in your link and have appended it to the post for future generations! 8-D

  8. Brilliant, as always! Raining Acorns posted a link to this on a comment on my blog post about my birdsong healing! I was thinking as i was reading your poem how funny it is that you wrote that in 2003 and yet now the word 'twittering' has such different connotations. Life changes so fast!

  9. Fran - yeah, weird huh? I'm thinking of a rewrite!

  10. I like this a whole lot, Clare. Funny, in a way it reminds me of my Bonnie and Clyde piece - just the tone and the way it ends with a bang!

    I'm laughing at Christine's Richard Clayderman comment - I think I'd be turning that gun on myself if it were the only solution.


  11. Glad you like, Kat - I'm not so sure about the ending, but having embarked I didn't really know where I was going with it! haha