written by K H van Berkum | illustrated by Gracey Zhang
Lyrebird, rumpled Australian ground fowl. He sings the song of a gas-powered chainsaw. He hears it every time a pink-cheeked forester cuts a flank of the landscape, then mimics the brattle until it synchs. Lyrebird named himself as a way to lie, maybe, delights to clack and tick like the strappy gear of a bird-watching troupe. Think of the men startling, disoriented as Lyrebird changes again! He is now a thrush. Now, a maniacal kookaburra. Later, he will be a car alarm, his preferred scatter-causing finale.
He named himself because he knows his throat is different. His tail too, spilling furies of feathers up behind, catching grime like a flue. His larynx is a syrinx; controlled multiply, a tugged marionette harmonizing with itself. His throat lets him be a thrush to a thrush. He named himself when scientists could not name him. Was he a pheasant? Partridge? Grubby junglefowl brother? They could not name him like they cannot find him now. Bitter, he became a liar. Liar liar lyrebird, lying all over the open Illawarra, mocking the clamor of his home.
He must feel smug inside his name, but smug birds are still birds. He lies without concept of the words. He calls himself Lyrebird but cannot know, as he nurses the drag of a chainsaw’s song, his name is lyre: a small stringed yoke, made to strum.
About the artists:
G, Grace, Gracey is a freelance illustrator, BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, educated in the United States, she is now based in New York riding that train while thinking of warmer climates. graceyzhang.com / instagram: graceyyz
K H van Berkum is currently a poetry student and teaching fellow at Boston University. Her work can be seen in an upcoming issue of Strange Horizonsas well as The Eunioa Review and Curio Poetry. She dances spontaneously and walks a sheepdog.