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Kirtland's Warbler


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.

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