Kim Peter Kovac \ Spring 2015
Birdman in the Blue Hour
“He flew faster than the phoenix in his flight when he dressed his body in the feathers of a vulture”–
A ninth century court poet in Cordoba speaking about Abbas Ibn Firnas.
Just behind my right ear, I hear the children singing my name, hear them
constantly, in the street, in the souk, in the market, sometimes even in the
Abbas, Abbas, Ibn Firnas, Abbas, Abbas, Ibn Firnas. Who? Abbas. Who?
And then they sing about what I’ve accomplished. Or, at least, some of it.
What’s he written? Poetry. What’s he studied? Astronomy.
I’m a proud polymath, and wish they would talk about the water clock or the
clear glass reading stones. And remember that, In’sh’allah, I will continue
What’s he done? Medicine. And? Built a planetarium. And? Poems,
They think I’m out of my head mad, all of these kids, and it’s sad that their
doggerel sticks in my ears. It remains, ringing and rhyming like a wiggling worm.
We’re afraid for his life and so is his wife. He’s going up in the sky, he
thinks he can fly.
Yes, they say it’s crazy that a man can copy a bird, but I think I can, I know I can,
and maybe then they will stop singing about me, and I can stop having all of
these rhymes clanging around in my head.
I walk past the grove of almond trees, over the ridge and the Roman Bridge. I
carry the wings sculpted and assembled from green wood, vulture feathers, and
canvas. The children see me:
What’s he doing? What does he carry? How exciting, he’s in such a hurry.
Let’s go faster, right behind, past the gates, the seven gates.
I turn left at the Street of the Flute, and slow down for a moment to savor the
baharat and cardamom that rise above the cacophony of odors from the Old
Souk’s spice alley.
Can he fly up in the air?
At the far side of Daisy Square, I climb the tower, the Cordoba tower, walking up
the stairs each by each.
Can he fly up in the air?
At the top, I unroll a calfskin parchment with a calligraphed poem, and enlist
reading stones to softly recite from desert poet Laith Al Tel: “When the South
wind blows, it rushes through the hills with yearning. Its dips and swirls bring
visions of youth and faded years”
On the balcony of the tower, I strap the wings, balance at the edge and
remember the poet who longs to live within the wind, the wind that dusts my
I jump. And for a moment, I am a bird. The voices of the children join with the
wind to keep me aflight, further and farther and faster.
Look, it’s true, look what he can do, Abbas flies, he flies, he flies.
It was the year we call 261, which the children of Moses know as 4635, which the
followers of Jesus know as 875.
Now, many dozen years later, as the clock is on the ridge between day and night,
it’s L'Heure Bleue, as my friend Philippe says, I scan the sky and see eleven stars.
Eleven stars over Andalusia.
If you listen to the wind as it flutters through silver poplar trees, you hear
sopranino bells chiming. Then laughter, joyful laughter of the children who saw
me fly. And finally, with the setting sky a deep Egyptian Blue, you can hear
whispers softly chanting a poem of remembrance:
Kim Peter Kovac works nationally and internationally in theater for young audiences with an emphasis on new play development and networking. He tells stories on stages as producer of new plays, and tells stories in writing with lineated poems, prose poems, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, haiku, microfiction, and three-line poems, with work appearing or forthcoming in print and on-line in journals including Vine Leaves Literary Review, Elsewhere, Frogpond, Mudlark, and Counterexample Poetics. He is fond of avant-garde jazz, murder mysteries, contemporary poetry, and travel, and lives in Alexandria, VA, with his bride, two Maine Coon cats, and a Tibetan Terrier named Finn.