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.

R. Charboneau

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