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Swallow Attack


Who hand-built your birdhouse, swallow?

Who painted its pinewood green?

Then sunk its post near the garden

Where it's safe but accessibly seen?

Who evicted the insatiable sparrows

With an offer they couldn't refuse—

Who's your nestlings' virtual godfather,

And your landlord!—can it be news?

It's the fellow you're diving at now,

You kamikaze in chattering flak,

As I peaceably water my garden

In the midst of a swallow attack.


A swoop at my head and a squeak

That's your tree-swallow attack!

 Then you soar off into the blue,

Then you circle so gracefully back

That I have to gaze up and admire

And score you one more perfect ten

As you steep-dive down to the garden

And lock me in your sights again.

A half-dozen air-circus stunts

Then you're back at the house with your mate,

Where I'm watched for false-seeming moves,

And false-seeming can seem my fate—


A black-over-white killer whale

Soaring tinily over dry land!

A hurtling martial-arts' star!

A blade from a knife-thrower's hand!

Who forked out the property taxes?

Who feathered the family nest?

Banished the hornets at personal risk?

Tree swallow, I ought to be blest!

Not swiped like the jay or the cat—

Or as if for a snippet of hair

To add to the swan and goose feathers

That soften your May and June lair!


When your fledglings have all earned their wings

And you couldn't care less about me,

And I'm out picking peas in my garden

With something like PTSD

(Though with every plunge at my skull

You always impeccably veer,

So a permanent feathered headdress

I shouldn't be wearing this year),

How soon is the calm too complete,

When you're off with your new blood and bride,

And I recognize, brave brother swallow,

That the courage was all on your side.


But next spring I'm drafting a lease

You can sign as a sky-writer might,

Saying bluebirds are my preferred tenants

Though I'll rent to the wed priests of flight,

The jet set in sleek coat and tails—

Some would say you're slumming up here—

But our rules of engagement, tree swallow,

Well, by spring I'll spell them out clear.

But I'm now strolling out to my garden

And your chattering tells me go back,

Back in the house and finish that poem,

That poem on the swallow attack.


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