‘Fatal Light Awareness,’
A Poem by Margaret Atwood

With Photographs by Owen Deutsch from Bringing Back the Birds

July 17, 2019  By Margaret Atwood

A thrush crashed into my window:
one lovely voice the less
killed by glass as mirror—

a rich magician’s illusion of trees—
and by my laziness:
Why didn’t I hang the lattice?

Up there in the night air
among the high-rises, music dies
as you fire up your fake sunrises:
your light is the birds’ last darkness.

All over everywhere
their feathers are falling—
warm, not like snow—
though melting away.

We are a dying symphony.
No bird knows this,
but us—we know

what our night magic does.
Our dark light magic.

Arctic tern Gannet Rufous-crested coquette Violet tailed sylph Bald eagle


“Fatal Light Awareness” by Margaret Atwood first appeared in Bringing Back the Birds: Exploring Migration and Preserving Birdscapes Throughout the Americas (2019), from American Bird Conservancy and nonprofit publisher Braided River. Published with permission. All photos by Owen Deutsch.

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, story writer, essayist, and environmental activist. She is the author of some 16 novels, eight collections of short stories, eight children’s books, 17 volumes of poetry, 10 collections of nonfiction, as well as small press editions, television and radio scripts, plays, recordings, and editions. Her lifetime contribution to letters and book culture include groundbreaking fiction, environmental and feminist activism, and service to community as a co-founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

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