They’re not as cautious as other birds,

these passerines along Central Park West

hopping the hillocks of cobbled stone

or perched on the shoulder of the park wall.

If she cannot skirt the curled toes of benches,

parsing lettuce from lamb from pita

sprinkled out of tinfoiled  gyros,

she and hers will starve, as plain as that.

There’s no crumbs tossed freely for her.

She must be rude, beak barbed and

mischievous under the vending carts.

She feigns interest in a well-placed pretzel,

waiting for the hand’s absent-mindedness,

her sidle like the Tramp’s penguin shuffle.

 

We’re so much like the places we inhabit

it’s impossible to say for certain whether

we engender our space or assume its habit.

Someday these finches will sing for their meals

when they realize our love of birdsong.

They will court us with their chirping

out of our food, beggaring us like street artists.

They will be panhandler birds, a new species

of mendicant warblers native to northeastern

metropoleis; their singing will be a novelty

like violinists beneath the transverse

playing the Four Seasons of Vivaldi.

Then birds’ song will never be the same,

when necessity is the reason their song remains,

until what’s left of their nature we rob

for our entertainment, and create

a wholly different little brown job.


R. Charboneau

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