Mortal bird, we are drawn to the drama
Of your perilous persistence,
As though we share a single karma,
And our one true hope is coexistence.
In song and feather we know finer and fairer.
You are not among the divine nor the strange.
But your numbers are less than a rounding error,
And a thumbtack can blot out your range.
The Palm, the Prairie, the Myrtle, the Pine:
Who will know to miss the warbler that's you?—
The Sylvia Plath of the Passerine,
And the Emily Dickinson too.
Near jackpines born of lightning-fires
You build your nest of twigs and loam.
So exacting you are in your desires;
So faithful, it seems, to your doom.
When your few hundred breeding pairs part
To winter in the blue Caribbean,
We see you off like Amelia Earhart,
Three-quarters in love with Oblivion—
One voyage over the sea
On one cruel turn of the weather,
And the rarity enriching your beauty
Can vanquish you altogether.
If your yellow breast that sets in autumn
Does not return to rise in spring,
That tiny benighting will so unbecome
Our vistas where you once would sing.
We can save all of you but your being
In the sordid heaven of Marilyn Monroe,
But we hoard in the hell of your fleeing:
It's the only forever we know.
Maybe most of this is in our skulls,
So to all but us it must seem odd:
In our controlled burns and cowbird culls
We are setting a good example for God.