That song comes from sorrow there is no doubt.
Bullfinches in ancient times had eyes put out
so they would sing more sweet. Think of
those black beads dropped to earth coming
to seed flowers turning inward every single
one of them without its sight.
Stories say that moving in the wind they
made up song as if nothing had been lost and
this rings long into the night. Every sound
we hear turns to a bigger one and each is
true. We add our own until it is the first
din ever heard, the way poetry begins.
Nearly one-third of the wild birds in the United States
and Canada have vanished since 1970, a staggering
loss that suggests the very fabric of North America’s
ecosystem is unraveling.
–The New York Times (September 19, 2019)
As the world’s cities teem
our concrete terrains with shouts
and signs—as the younglings balance
scribbled Earths above their heads,
stand in unseasonal rain
or blistering sun,
the birds quietly lessen
themselves among the grasslands.
No longer a chorus but a lonely,
indicating trill: Eastern meadowlark,
wood thrush, indigo bunting—
their voices ghosts in the
chemical landscape of crops.
Red-winged blackbirds veer
beyond the veil. Orioles
and swallows, the horned lark
and the jay. Color drains from
our common home so gradually,
we convince ourselves
it has always been gray.
Little hollow-boned dinosaurs,
you who survived the last extinction,
whose variety has obsessed
scientific minds, whose bodies
in the air compel our own bodies
to spread and yearn—
how we have failed you.
The grackles are right to scold us,
as they feast on our garbage
and genetically-modified corn.
Our children flock into the streets
with voices raised, their anger
a grim substitute