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Red-eyed Vireo


I’ve heard him earn the jaybirds’ jeers.

I’ve watched him bore a cloud to tears.

And if in mid-woods you will linger

You’ll hear this backwoods backup singer,

An equivocator of a sort

Who’s never cut a story short.

To know him is to too-well know

Our friend the red-eyed vireo.


In springtime he arrives upon

The redeye from the Amazon,

Then to a hardwood stand he’s flown

To make its leafy heart his own,

His pulpit from which all his days

He’ll preach his phrase and counter-phrase.

He sees both sides, he sides with none;

He’s never felt one side has won.

And who knows what upstairs he’s got,

A mega or just half a watt,

But once his tune has lost its luster—

Well, he’s just begun his filibuster,

Insuring rivals much in strife,

And brides-to-be, a lectured wife.


Yet on the branch or on the fly

He’s not a bird to strike the eye:

A workaholic looking drained,

Overtired and overstrained;

For he siestas not at all;

And though at night he doesn’t call,

I for one would have to think

He’s too obsessed to catch a wink

By all he has to build and borrow

To have enough to say tomorrow.

I fear that’s why his eyes are shot—

His eyes whose red is hard to spot.

I’d add the toll is quite the shame:

His wife and kids look much the same.


Before the leaves begin to rust

Our friend is tropics-bound or bust,

Across the Gulf and onward to

As far as southernmost Peru.

It’s enough to start a woodland riot—

I mean, what to do with all the quiet.

But for all his months of winter study,

We know his waters will stay muddy,

As come the May our Inca prof

Will pick up right where he left off.

And lucky the cerulean

Who gets a warble edgewise in!

Still, without him: there would be a lack.

We’re sort of—kind of—glad he’s back



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