You were all about on the bare ground

parsing litter from a naked and spidery tupelo

in the last cold light of day in the backyard.


I’d forgotten or was too lazy to spread some seed

that morning, so maybe you’d come back at the end

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


I don’t know if the neighborhood cat knew that too,

but there he was, brutally clever in his stillness,

getting the drop on you, laying himself out


sideways in the dirt, escaping beneath the fence

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

I think he also wanted to get as far away


from what had happened as he possibly could.

Since then, I’ve been thinking of a name for the song

you performed for each other after climbing


into the limbs of the tupelo, that ricocheting siren.

I’d never heard it before, but I recalled wanting

birdsong in the backyard while I was writing,


and if I paid attention only half the time,

would I not also be like the cat, unwilling

to reckon with your nature, or with mine?

R. Charboneau


Artwork: Emperor Huizong – Finches and Bamboo

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