The redpolls arrived like Christmas cards
scattered beneath our backyard feeder,
little red seals atop their heads
like wax on parchment.
What might be the medieval message
they brought to the business of consuming suet
beneath our window-sheltered gaze,
and what dominion sent it?
As if hunger were the lord of all,
the redpolls thrust their weightless breasts
against the immigrant sparrow population
and stayed on, their numbers increasing,
establishing a colony.
We watched them as we raided the fridge
looking for protein, roughage, vitamins
we didn’t even think about needing,
propelled by a hunger our bodies
remembered but our minds had forgotten.
Now the equinox, the redpolls will head north
soon, we keep thinking, as they stay on.
How far north can north recede?
Can it recede into distant memory?
What shall we eat, and what shall we drink
when the calendar with its scenic photos
has disappeared from the kitchen wall,
and possibly the wall along with it?
How shall we stay warm, or
how shall we cool off, depending?
What the Birds Know
A cedar waxwing perched
on the January lilac bush
gave me its silken once-over,
cocked its head and quizzed me
through the kitchen window, till
the teakettle whistled all-clear.
It flew away, and I pictured
my neighbor’s cherry tree,
its branches hung with a banquet
of rotten fruit. I took binoculars
to the front window to watch the feast.
Instead of waxwings, convoys of robins
were running cherry missions forth
and back to the ash trees
standing at wintry attention across the street.
This was enough to wonder about,
my mind turning
to the polar vortex, last summer’s heat,
the persistent driving rains of November.
I went back to the kitchen.
A Cooper’s hawk with its sniper’s eyes
had taken the waxwing’s place.
It flew off low like a strafing jet.
I sat down to my oatmeal, toast
and keemun tea from halfway
round the world, and wondered
at what the birds must know
that I have yet to learn.
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