AN AVIAN MESSAGE

The birds departed one morning

which we believe may be how

they express displeasure, although

the destruction of the nests

and the death of the children

by predators may have had

something to do with the departure.

We wait patiently for their return,

the wetland still dry, but we hope

with the wet season that what

is now mud will again drop slowly

beneath the surface, the new 

growth will drown, and the birds

will sense a return to status quo

but that assumes that birds are

unlike humans, unbegrudging

and willing to forgive us our sins.

FLIGHT

We imagine that they are
disappearing into the clouds
only to reemerge
in a different place.

Nothing could be further
from the truth for they,
these raptors flying
on monstroius wings,
are shredding the clouds
ripping free their fruit,
eating of the sweetest
parts, letting the rest
fall down on us
as we scurry away
afraid of being soaked
in their remnants.

WETLAND HAIKU

Beside the still pond
dragonflies hover lightly
senbazuru dawn

The Great Egret stares
the still pond returns his stare
dawning sun laughing

Clouds swallow the moon
moorhens chanting their vespers
sleep overtakes us

A dragonfly sits
waiting for us to take wing
gravity says no

THEM, AGAIN

They say that you should
never approach or touch
a small bird, lest it he shunned,
perhaps to death, by your scent.

I’ve never been one to listen
to any “them” with whom I
cannot argue face to face,
and so seeing the small

bird on the ground curled
in its nest, staring up
at the branch from which
she parachuted groundward

I scoop her up in cupped
palms, a nested nest, and place
her gently back at her point
of departure, under the eye

of her mother higher up
in the tree, then walk back
as the mother returns
to the nest and child, and

with a sidelong glance
at me, appears to nod,
saying “this is why we dare
not listen to an unseen them.”

CONVERSATION

Arising into night
the departing sun
tangoes away with its cloud,
memories soon forgotten.
Other dancers take the stage,
now a romance, now
a war dance, feathers raised
in prayer to unseen gods.
Night will soon bring
its curtain across this stage,
the avian cast’s final bows taken
the theatre will darken, awaiting
another performance,
a new script tomorrow,
but for this solitary moment
of frozen grace, it is we
who write the conversation,
our lines sung by actors who
know only nature’s
unrelenting song.

RETURNING

The Great Egrets swoop low,
make a slow banking turn
and alight in the leafless tree.

They sit imagining water,
the wetland they knew
a month or so ago, now
more a mud flat all waiting
for the rainy season’s arrival.

They leave as night approaches,
the once wetland suddenly
again silent, and we are
left to dream of the flocks
of ibis, herons and egrets
as they dream of again
soon returning to their home.

CONVERSATION

If you want a good conversation
birds should be your first choice,
wading birds at the top of the list,
although you still have to be quick
for if you meander they will lose interest.

Animals are to who you should turn
if you need advice on getting through
the omnipresent obstacles life raises
to impede your smooth passage through it,
but note cats tend to be pithy and easily bored.

Cows and horses in the fields
have almost infinite patience, and listen
when others would turn away, but note
that they are easily distracted so it is best
to keep a handful of hay at the ready always.

And, remember to bring your dictionaries
for birds and animals will speak to you
only in their own languages despite the fact
that they fully understand yours, but do not
deign or desire to be thought of as human.

ABSOLUTION

The birds in the wetland
speak to me in my dreams,
telling tales of what this place
was before we arrived
and forever changed it.

They don’t curse us, although
they remind us we are cursed
by our own actions, but
they do pity us, ground bound
living in our own waste.

In the morning the birds
have disappeared, a few
vultures carrying off the bodies
left by the bobcats whose
territory we have made our own.

At night I say a prayer
for the departed birds, and in
my dreams they come again,
and reject my prayer as hollow
and seeking only absolution.

FLIGHT

As a young child, I always imagined
myself a bird, poised to take wing
the next time my parents told me
I couldn’t do what I wanted,
to swoop around, out of their grasp,
until it was time for lunch or dinner.

Years later my dream was to be
a pilot, Air Force not Navy, I might
get seasick and that isn’t a sight
even I would want to see, until
I read Jarrell’s “The Death
of the Ball Turret Gunner,” and
the ground seemed a safer place.

Once in the business world, I
thought about some day retiring
young and seeing the world
on the cheap, Asia, Africa, Oceana,
and that lasted until the second
time I had to fly to Japan with
fourteen hours in a coach class
middle seat on a Boeing 747
when my backyard suddenly
became the future of my dreams.