Scrabbling colors–birds rioting seed,
a broadcast punctuated
as I hand feeders
from limbs, rails, poles, to my short wife.
She fills them, hands them back,
a Saturday task done
for luck, for variegated finches;
dull republican sparrows; blue jays,
braying fundamentalists; and,
this morning, one bald cardinal—
alopecia or a mate’s black
The morning rhymes
with dirt-roads, years arranging
rearrange the evenings’ crows’
F’koff! F’koff! or hearing one night, two cold
stanzas into a poem that gave me only
two, a fluttering, then silence quilting
the beat before the rasping, bitter
call of the existentialist bird,
pure pique drawn naked
over a cheese grater.
It cried once,
flew away, never returned,
or at least, I never heard it.
But there’s a resonance, even now,
something in me saying Yes . . . yes, you’re right.
Sometimes, it’s just like that.
Not for what we offer, birds come,
not because not offering would keep them
here or away.
Small charities suggest,
suggest, suggest, suggest, each repetition
feting the air thicker, stubbing any move
against an ignorant amazement
that isn’t anything but a lack
of anything else.
Once, Fort Worth, I saw Deke Birds fall
from St. Patrick’s cathedral. Conical lumps
sprouted wings, veered upward inches from smash,
worked air to gabled roof peak
for yet another hurling.
They didn’t feed as they fell,
weren’t gaudy about it, weren’t attracting mates.
The plunge was itself, the rushing down,
wings clamped to succor a plummet
so intense it seemed a longing,
a sidewalk smack avoided
by a feather’s breadth.
they sang, their cry, a large tear
drawn upward through a slide whistle.
I don’t know all the birds outside
our window, don’t want to know,
don’t know why, but we feed them,
not for what’s done, but that they’ve come,
that they’re here, and we know as much.
It’s not so much a hoping
as a way of living in lieu of. We do;
they come. They’d come, anyway,
but in our doing, we welcome
the scrabbling wings, the hunger
toward which we raise our hands.
About Samuel Prestridge: I live and work in Athens, Georgia. I have published articles, poems, essays, and interviews in a wide range of publications, including Literary Imagination, Style, Appalachian Quarterly, Paideuma, Poem, and The Southern Humanities Review.
Image Credit: Illustration from A popular handbook of the birds of the United States and Canada,. Boston,Little, Brown,1903. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.