We do laude the songbirds of early spring,
their melodies startling us like a symphony in the woods.
Other birds have wintered here with us,
the chickadee, the nuthatch, the titmouse,
a few daring cardinals,
red splashes on white snow.
But now our cold weather friends
have been joined by gold finch, rose finch,
wrens, doves, robins, sparrows, grackles, starlings,
red winged black birds…
all of them converging on my back deck,
flitting among the hanging feeders
filled with black oil and gray stripped sunflower seeds
and inch thick suet blocks speckled with blue berry bits,
held in the metal grids hung from our roof over-hang.
This aviary grocery store has been dangling there
since Octobers first frost.
I’ve shoveled paths through the snow on the deck
to fill the feeders for my winter wards
who coexist in amity, politely waiting
on the branches for their reservation
while, one by one, each guest, according to his turn,
fastidiously pecks one seed at a time,
flies off its perch to the bark of a near-by pine
to shuck the shell, extract the meal,
then return to her appointed place,
as though by invitation and there, patiently, waits.
But now these newly arrived immigrants,
hungry and worn by their flight from the
warm-winter south to our still chilly north
and frantic, industrious construction
of architecturally miraculous nests
have neither time nor personality
for the politeness of their established neighbors.
They peck at them, and each other,
for purchase on a feeder perch,
fight aerial duals,
beating wings and angry chirps
replacing the grateful “thank you” of my
more appreciative chickadee friends.
How they squabble in the air!
Joined now by a new multitude of grey squirrels,
robber raiders on the deck who, when they can brave
the leap from railing to feeder,
comport themselves like hanging hogs,
flinging as many seeds onto the deck
as they can manage to stuff into their gluttonous bellies,
showering seeds onto the heads of ground-feeding
junkos, doves, grackles and their fellow squirrels,
to disabled by fright to make the flight.
And so, we move from Winters polite restaurant
to city street rumble,
gang against gang,
flock against flock,
with the occasional, intrepid individual wren weaving
through the whirling struggle to snatch a single seed,
gobble it down and return to the fray,
a frightened Dough-Boy forced to the Front,
again and again…
!t seems Spring bird songs in morning and evening
are neither welcoming warbles, greeting warming sun,
nor gentle bed time lullabies.
Rather the predatory war chants for a new day of battle
and the mourning laments, Taps, of worn out combatants,
cursing the war gods for this days exhaustion
and the unknown calamities of tomorrows approaching fight.
And we are no worse with our Battle Hymns
and odes “to those in peril on the sea”.
Yes, we, like the rest of Natures wild world,
must have our peaceful times, taking our quietus
“by the watch fires of a hundred circling camps”.
But these are pauses,
not for rest ,
but for reloading.
Not for peaceful dream,
but breathing deep,
for the next