“Bird on the Wire”: a puente poem

Tanmay Philip is POW for W3 Weekly Prompt #42 and sets an interesting poetry form in his challenge. The Puente Poem (btw puente is Spanish for ‘bridge’).

The Puente Poetry Form
James Rasmusson created the Puente Poetry Form. It has three stanzas, with the first and third having an equal number of lines and the middle stanza having only one line, which acts as a bridge (puente) between the first and third stanza. *Puente is the Spanish word for bridge.

The number of lines is the writer’s choice. It may be in free verse or rhyme. 

A tilde (~) delineates the centre stanza, which acts as a bridge connecting the first and third stanzas. 

Tanmay’s prompt guidelines 

1. Write a “Puente” poem; 

2. The middle stanza should contain the title of a song; 

• You can add more words to the middle stanza if you wish.

I have chosen for my middle stanza, the song title Bird on the Wire written by the late great Leonard Cohen.

Bird on the Wire

Bird on the Wire 

A little bird swings 
On his playground swing 
back and forth 
T’ward the south 
Then the north 
To and fro 
he swings and sways 
loving this game
of carefree days; 
his redbreast aflame 
and heart afire, 
He sings on the wire. 
A tuneful hum,
The nicest of things 
(between searching for insects) 
is to play on the swings
In his robin costume
in a springtime Park 
where primroses bloom 
He is happy as a Lark. 
Like a 

~Bird on the Wire~ 

Like a 
fork-tailed flyer. 
The swallow arrival 
is a feat for survival. 
Flying, belying, 
Vast distance (in this instance) 
from Africa’s faraway lands 
across wide seas and sands 
in constant flight 
Far, far, far away 
Forever on the wing 
over green fields and trees;
wild marsh and mire. 
To alight aright. Alright!
At last, okay, 
on a wire. 
He can hear a robin sing 
and survey all he can see 
(it’s as good as he heard it would be)
listening to the little bird 
sing a tuneful hum,
He is free.
Free as a bird.

Lesley Scoble.  February, 2023
Swallow on the wire | Photo: Lesley Scoble

A little bit of history

Leonard Cohen lived on the Greek island of Hydra. He lived there at the time when they were first introducing electricity and phone lines. The new phone wires were the inspiration for his classic song, Bird on the Wire.

At first, Leonard Cohen despaired when they installed electricity on to his adopted island home of Hydra. The modern world of the 1960s was moving in on his idyll. He watched the electricity and the telephone lines being installed and the telegraph poles hammered into the earth.

The view from his window was changing; and staring out, he watched his dream of escape, of living a medieval style life disappear with the coming of electricity.

Then, however, he noticed the birds perching on the wires. The inspiration for the first line. 

Like a bird, on the wire

The company he kept inspired the second line. Drinking companions who drank and sang late into the night. The merrymakers would stagger home in the middle of the night, holding each other up and singing together.

Like a drunk, in a midnight choir

The third line is describing the encroaching civilization as a tether. When he wanted to be free. 

I have tried, in my way, to be free

Leonard Cohen

I was fortunate enough to enjoy front row seats at a couple of concerts on his last London, UK tour. Also, the honour and privilege of meeting the great poet, artist, composer, songwriter, genius. Leonard Cohen.

Bird on the Wire of a yacht | Photo: Lesley Scoble

The only connection this next bit has to Bird on the Wire is that it is about Hydra. This snippet is just a memory from when I visited the island.

Once Upon a Time

I spent a night on the wondrous island of Hydra

Once upon a time, I worked as a dancer in the hot, thronging city of ancient Athens. It was the hottest August recorded in Greece for a long time. Our dance schedule was tough. We practised in the daytime and performed at night. The extreme daytime temperatures would cool to a mere 32 degrees centigrade in the night’s coolness. I lost a lot of weight!

We got one night off a week from dancing. Which gave me a chance to escape the stultifying August heat of Athens. It is my chance to take a break from dancing and venture out to the Greek islands and enjoy the cooling sea breeze. With little sleep, but determined to get away from the city, I tip-toe past my slumbering, snoring fellow dancers and roommates, Amanda and Margaret, and leave the hotel before dawn.

My spirits lift as I walk down the awakening streets to the Athenian port of Piraeus to take the first available ferry to any nearby island. I never knew which ferry I would catch. I chose the first one available that could take me to any close island. One weekend, my random choice led me to taking a ferry to Hydra. I’d never heard of it before. I stand on deck at the boat’s rail, gazing down at the busy harbour, waiting for departure. There are traders of sweets and drinks on the dockside jostling for custom, offering their goods. They wave long poles laden with treats and thrust them up like defensive mediaeval pikes to the likes of me, the hungry passengers. A seller with sweet doughnuts hoopla’d on a long pole proffers them to me. They are strung on the pole like big pastry beads. The sweet sugary smell wafts under my nose. I toss drachmas into a pouch at the top of the pole (which reminds me of an apple picker’s pole. Instead of capturing the falling apple, it captures my coins). I slip off the tasty breakfast. Doughnuts with their holes, you must admit, are the perfect food for serving on a pole.

I’d never been to the island of Hydra. It was so quiet. There are no cars. Donkeys are used to transport people and goods. I take a donkey ride up a mountain slope (first reached by a rowing boat across a gleaming cerulean coloured river). The donkey carries me to a bar called Limonassis, that is located high in the cooler mountain air. They served the best squeezed lemonade I have ever tasted.

I find a room for the night in the centre of town. My humble pension room is clean and bare except for the simple, single bed placed next to a wall with a window that has no pane of glass. I fall asleep listening to a sound I’d never heard before. The sound of silence. A silence so unknown to my ears. It almost hurts. Until 4 am. When the church bell chimed. The loudest bongs I have ever heard. The reverberations startle and chuck me out of bed on to the floor. At dawn, I awake to a gentle voice singing a Grecian song. I open my eyes to see my room bathed in a brilliant morning sunlight of sunflower yellow. It was a golden dawn like I’d never seen before. I peek through the glass-less window. The melodic voice was coming from a maid, singing while she swept the floor. Her grass broom sweeping a waltzing swishing-swish 3/4 rhythm accompanying her golden voice better than any percussion drummer on the cymbals could ever hope to achieve.  

I never wanted to leave this island.

When I return to my hot Athens hotel room to prepare for the evening show, my fellow dancer colleagues were where I’d left them two days ago. Recumbent and snoring in bed.  

My thanks to Tanmay for the inspirational prompt. Which encouraged me to write my first puente poem Bird on the Wire. Thanks as always to David, The Skeptic’s Kaddish.

18 responses to ““Bird on the Wire”: a puente poem”

  1. I have been waiting for this poem all week, with bated breath… and it was well worth the wait. Your poems are always so cheerful, Lesley… really brought a smile to my face. And it seems like you’ve had a lot of adventures in your life. I have never been to Greece… never been to Europe in fact. If I go, I’ll be sure to visit Hydra.

    Liked by 1 person

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