They’re not as cautious as other birds,
these passerines along Central Park West
hopping between hillocks of cobbled stone
or perched on the shoulder of the park wall,
not as patient as country birds who eat alone,
who don’t contend with pigeons or waterfowl,
nor shake exhaust fumes from their feathered coats.
If they cannot skirt the curled toes of benches
and, pecking, parse the lettuce from the pita bread
fallen from some tourist’s tinfoiled gyro,
she and hers will starve, as plainly as that.
There’s no crumbs tossed freely, least of all for her.
She must be rude before she’s skittish, beak barbed
and mischievous under the vending carts.
She feigns interest in a well-placed pretzel,
waiting only for the hand to release,
her shuffle like the Tramp’s own deceptions
before she tears free and flees with her stolen piece.
So much are we like the places we inhabit
it is impossible to say for certain
whether we engender our space or assume its habit,
if adaptation is pertinent
to spontaneity, or only that
we fill a niche, serving not of our own assent.
Someday these finches will sing for their meals
when they realize our love of birdsong.
They will court us with their trill chirpings
out of our food, and we will beggar them
like park performers begging for small bills.
They will be panhandler birds, a new species
of mendicant warblers native to northeastern
metropoleis, and their singing a novelty
like violinists beneath the transverse
playing the Four Seasons of Vivaldi.
And then birds’ song will never be the same,
when necessity becomes the reason their songs remain,
and the nature of their etudes we rob
for our entertainment, and make for them
a wholly different little brown job.