Into the laterals and faults of strata
Whose linear seams are like memory,
Water wades its way, settling matters
In small aquifers, incised meanders;
Then floods over a landscape that teaches
Plains are only so much sediment,
Silt the slow ocean of any reach.
Think travertine and serpentine mantel-
high in living rooms, or kames and tills
Scattered like loose change, the marvelous marble
Of dolomite and metamorphic rock,
Or granite now as coolingly aloof
As someday overhead . . . small seismic self
Feeling a gust rattle years through the roof.
Meanwhile, there’s still the phone and mail, the door,
And the reassuring fact the fault’s not yours
As you’ve not budged. Not even the cat crosses the floor.
Outside, the world’s continuum of nests
Is full of cries announcing differences,
While mineshaft down, the brittle shale of self
Waits, certain of its own circumferences.
One is colossus of one’s growing doubt,
With ideas like past presidents profiled
And floating enthusiastic shouts
From old elections, conclusions of the will,
The dehydrations of mere permanence.
But high wing over shadow, how the world
Doubles in its transience.
Resplendently fragile, more color than weight,
As agile of flight as of changed habitat,
The birds are choric in the fate
Of their varieties; predictable
Of habit and Darwinian choices,
Myriad on one scale, and on another
Essential and of but one in all. And voices,
This side liquid whistles followed by a trill,
While there, a series of clear carolings,
Then the rapid whinnies of descending will
While somewhere overhead a finch attempts
All notes at once, as though to summarize
The way limbs ladder up, step green to blue
So shadows rise.
But year on year, wing beat and season,
Fattened or starved, silent or full
Of migratory sass, one reason
Brings each back, whether the same or no—
Warbler and thrush, sparrow and finch, wren, jay,
Thrasher and dove, tanager, waxwing, owl, crow, hawk . . .
They light, feed, breed, migrate or stay.
Calendar wise in their brief histories
And vulnerable as any emigrants
Searching to eat, they are geographies
Of days, convergences of now,
And needed if for nothing more than their arrival
When, worthy that again we crane to see,
They bring survival.