Sparrows, Pigeons, Rats, and a Rainbow
A bird is not a bird (we dare not say).
Oh, they can twitter and chirp, that’s well enough
But sparrows—sparrows don’t spread out and soar,
They don’t shoot up and migrate, far and dotted,
Away, way up there, flapping unison
With beak-straight V determinance of form—
It’s like an angled rainbow feathering past
That happenstance, that floating motion, but straight,
No curves at all, a regimented show
That’s fleeting, heaving, the magic parsed, not whole.
A goose is not a rainbow, not at all.
Not in its locating, or having just—
The beaks all point, all counterpoint, erupt
Again, mobility a restless future
A rainbow something not even to drive beyond
A gabbing perched squawk mass of sparrows, that—
That! That is something not even to see:
You look around at empty late March trunks,
The buds on breezy branch ends, rustling up,
A mighty oak pruned to a lollipop:
It’s empty. Fuzzy tipped magnolia:
It’s empty. Every twig is measured space.
Confused, the climbing gaze can level out
On bare stout shrub, a scrubby fanned rose bush,
Its hips round flushed-faced queens with bent down crowns.
These birds—quotidian, dirt-bathing birds
Whose feathers are themselves the color dirt.
Obscure in Spring though chattering out loud
Missed from behind brown scattering branches
A whole flock, singing, barely moving heads
(Even in Spring a bird is not a bird)
Two flit out, ducking down to land and dance.
A mating dance! They circle frantically,
A mad and lunging leap, a coy cocked eye.
The dust kicks up their wings and now I see,
Again head shaking, no. No. Not at all—
Just cleaning, just down washing up in dirt.
I turn back, to last Saturday, out front
The black metal hatchway lid all laced
With little Vs, as though the sparrows, caught
In some misdeed, were sentenced by judge
And jester both, to be tar-heeled
(presumably they came with feathers first)
and made to walk out wet black prints of V.
But never mind that, just a fancy thought
Attending what I saw that full noonday,
The bright and teeming throes of sparrow rape!
No tender kisses and no wooing calls
(the soft and mellow lovebirds of V-day)
Just brutish forced-in-screaming dominance,
The victory of strength here shrunk to scale,
And I, appalled, head turned, look for comfort.
The church, our sidewalk neighbor to the right,
Lets out a fussing shuffle sound I know.
(No bird. No bird at all, I think, dismayed)
They’re pigeons, concrete-hued, marching dumbly
In caves the massive pillars in front form
To peck at the tines barbed against the nests,
The homeless church birds cooing out echoes.
Some boys peek up the pillars, call them rats.
The sparrows sing on to remind my mind
To winter, to the snow, all sheeted white,
A glowing blue at dusk. They hop and twitch
And stab and shiver, striking brown in white.
21 hours ago