Alfred Hitchcock in Verse

Peter Swanson is a poet with an ambitious project: A sonnet for each of Alfred Hitchcock’s feature films. I love Hitchcock, I love poetry. This is great, you guys. Now I don’t know what he’s written so far, but I was able to find three sonnets on some German-language tumblr.


The ghosts arrive each cocktail hour,
Drink gin as sheer as mist and stay past dawn.
Down seesaw streets they scatter
Just to burn away in California’s sun.

Some writer somewhere said the past
Is never dead. He was righter than the rain.
My mind is packed with uninvited guests.
The wind plays requiems for nuns.

But she will stay when all the rest have left,
When the whiskey’s gone, the windows shut
Against the morning air. She’ll be the last

To leave, in shadows of a sea-green dress.
She whispers when I sleep. Never dead,
Never dead. And never past, never past.

Two more after the jump. (I saved my favorite for last.)

The Thirty-Nine Steps

Most live lives of half-remembering;
They blur through days of flaring thought
Then fall asleep with less than everything
They’ve learned. A rolling death. A burning-out.

But not me. What burns the brightest
Won’t blaze away. I am animate with facts.
How far from Montreal to Winnipeg. Full list
Of Aintree mares. The origin of Devil’s Flax.

My mind should feel too full, a sticky nest
Of spiderlings all struggling to live.
I will admit, it does at times. I gaze,

As we all do, at that better place
Where, like water through a sieve,
I’ll shed the swollen years, the heaving days.


The Birds

Now they make me say their names out loud.
The royal tern. The western grebe. The ruff.
The hook-billed kite. The rusty blackbird.
The tufted duck. It’s not enough,

They say, to only know each proper name.
Too soon they’ll make me go outdoors.
How often can they pick me clean,
I ask this multitude of doctors.

Whimbrel. Swan. Merganser. Teal.
Thrasher. Veery. Pygmy-owl.
The lesser scaup and common goldeneye.

They say what happened wasn’t real.
They tell me many names of gulls.
They preen and barely look me in the eye.

Have you guys read The Birds by Daphne Du Maurier? Hitchcock based his movie on the short story. I first read it in a book my father-in-law gave me off his shelf: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: My Favorites in Suspense. If you can get your hands on a copy (now out of print, of course) I’d recommend it. It has some gems. I loved The Birds particularly. Its creepiness and darkness far exceed, in my opinion, that of the movie.

Someone has very helpfully (and painstakingly) typed and uploaded the full text here.

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