“An aubade is a morning love song (as opposed to a serenade, which is in the evening), or a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn. It has also been defined as “a song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak”. (This according to Wikipedia, the lazy person’s best reference. It’s Saturday. I’m lazy.)
Traci Brimhall’s excellent book The Rookery contains several aubades, although not strictly in the traditional sense. They speak of the lover gone or separated from the speaker, but always with another layer of meaning -these aubades are not misty sighs of longing, but explorations of another side of what it means to separate. The whole book is wonderful, and if you are in the Chicago area, you really should come out to hear Traci read Monday night, May 14, at Molly Malone’s.
Aubade with a Broken Neck
The first night you don’t come home
summer rains shake the clematis.
I bury the dead moth 1 found in our bed,
scratch up a rutabaga and eat it rough
with dirt. The dog finds me and presents
between his gentle teeth a twitching
nightjar. In her panic, she sings
in his mouth. He gives me her pain
like a gift, and I take it. I hear
the cries of her young, greedy with need,
expecting her return, but I don’t let her go
until I get into the house. I read
the auspices the way she flutters against
the wallpaper’s moldy roses means
all can be lost. How she skims the ceiling
means a storm approaches. You should see
her in the beginnings of her fear, rushing
at the starless window, her body a dart,
her body the arrow of longing, aimed,
as all desperate things are, to crash
not into the object of desire,
but into the darkness behind it.
A bird in the house (or in the tender mouth of a dog) is a common occurrence for many. But the opening of “the first night you don’t come home” lets the reader know immediately that this situation is not typical, that the lovers of this aubade are less than happy. There will be more nights like this. The natural world is full of talismans in this poem, and the nightjar such a lovely symbol of the panic that comes with loss and desire.
If you want to write:
1. Use the traditional definition of aubade to write a poem to greet the dawn.
2. Use typical details (colors, mood, etc. ) of a sunrise scene to describe a loss.