2023 Poetry Ourselves: Birdfolk at the End of the World” by Natasha B. Connolly

A companion to Poetry Out Loud, the Poetry Ourselves competition gives students the opportunity to submit original poetry. The 2022 competition was open to Poetry Out Loud state and jurisdictional champions.

Natasha B. Connolly, Rhode Island’s 2023 Poetry Out Loud Champion, is the 2023 Poetry Ourselves written poetry winner for the poem “Birdfolk at the End of the World.”

"Birdfolk at the End of the World"

you did not bear wings until the last of it,
the final days when the world burned and we set fire to its ashes.
only then did they trace the curve of your bones,
admiring: here is someone who was made for flight.

the shadow of your own escape might swallow you
when acid oozes from the sky like rain
the dark clouds, the drops falling like feathers
the imperceptible outline of you against the night

sprung from your shoulders, your late-grown wings
like crumpled paper, flattened out by the wind.
nothing special, these days, your trash protrusions,
your traitorous and inhuman back, your spine so bright.

in the atomic cloud we are all sick, all dying, all dead,
so what is one more broken thing carving out its home against the sky?
the sky is coming down in a downpour all around you,
yet the crowd surrounds you whispering fly, fall, fight.