You were all about on the bare ground

parsing litter from a naked, spidery tupelo

in the last cold light of day in the backyard.


I’d forgotten or was too lazy that morning

to spread any seed, so maybe you came back

after a long day’s searching to make one last go of it.


I don’t know how the neighborhood cat knew this,

but there he was, brutally clever in his stillness,

getting the drop on you, laying himself out


and snaking back under the fence

with the same sort of fear he’d put in all of you.

I think he also wanted to get away as fast as he could


from what had happened. Since then

I’ve been thinking of a name for that song

flanging and dire you orchestrated


in memoriam from the tupelo.

I’d never heard it before, but I knew I wanted

birdsong in the backyard while I was writing,


and if I’d paid attention only half the time,

would I not also be like the cat, unwilling

to reckon with either of our natures?

R. Charboneau


Artwork: Emperor Huizong – Finches and Bamboo

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