wind like a south wind carrying a plane south
deposits him, beneficiary of a backwards current
on a branch with nothing companionable in sight -
no answer, no voice to answer, no voice,
no alarm, no succor - just an afternoon
and nothing pressing. No urgent business,
maybe only the rigors of trying to prevent
there being urgent business later.
He's not all smooth. A little feather
cowlicked on his narrow jaw, and I don't know
how he bathes, what he eats, what he wants,
who would want to eat him. I don't really understand
anything that is going on around me. But look,
I understand more than him:
the tree is dying.
Oak wilt blew in from Canada,
took a long time coming and finally cracked the veins
and this one is all bad on the inside, a meal of
corked-up flesh, big spongy patches and tainted roots
at the search.
(Amateur diagnosis. The tree is probably fine.)
There is a similarity neither tree nor bird know about.
Or his legs know it, and that message
is stuck somewhere. Or he's afraid.
The blighted oak is all fungus and refusal, and he:
his skeleton is spun from delicate copper.
If you open him up, he's like a penny -
pretty, and useless in this economy.
People and things always trying to get rid of him,
and he's listening because he knows it,
and he's singing because he knows it.
Open the tree up and the whole food chain comes down with it.
(Listen to your sweet flesh that wants to go on living.)
It's not a curse, not specifically:
just one fragile thing standing on another
but - count mercies -
too light to break it.
A basic brazier licking behind a splash of yellow, he chirrups.
His song comes from the throat.
His song is about something he saw once.
His song is unquestioned, muscle moving
His plumage is mostly air
And the tree is anchored in the ground
by the very thing that chokes it,
and we're all standing together:
me, tree, bird. At least until
I finish my sandwich, packing the greasy paper in
a rectangle, with unquestioned neatness,
and leave whistling.