Here, he said, we cut a crease
In which to set the seed.
Tend the roots and I will bless
Whatever fruit is made,
Whether fig or olive grow
To sanctify the air,
Magnolia or willow,
The leaves of common prayer.
Treat them with a touch as mild
As children would demand.
Earth may be both tame and wild
Under the gardener’s hand.
You yearned to know the strategies of being,
How the startled goldfinch picks where to light
After its mad-dash, head-spinning flight
Away from the backdoor’s sudden banging;
How the groundhog chooses the spot to dig
Its spy-hole, to see that the coast is clear
Before it risks plodding to the clover.
And what of the wasps? On which maple twig
Would their crepe-paper nest appear by magic?
You sprayed one once, and smashed it to marvel
At glossy, plump sacs embedded like marbles
All through, pearly gray and amniotic.
You wondered if each had its place decreed
According to the memory of need.
A wren settles in at the top of the yew,
Warbling a number that sounds like a plea:
Come back to me, sweetheart. I’ve changed. You’ll see.
His singing fades fast along the avenue.
The shrieks of the ravens rasp like a file.
They perch together, but it’s clear they’re foes.
One just repeats what the other one says,
Throat-cracking yawps of filth and black bile.
The cardinal atop the shepherd’s crook
Chirps a red storm, the sweetest among them.
The doves, of course, are grounded and solemn,
And hardly coo at all, but only look
At the man casting prisms from a hose
Onto the seeds and saplings of the spring.
From a fencepost a blue jay squawks and takes wing.
Some birds speak in poetry, some in prose.