Displaced by sandy distances
from tide and time and season,
detached from cadenced air and ballad
wind, from root and rime and reason;
shored where scarce water is voiceless
and ceaseless birds sing brashly out
of tune, beached in an alien landscape
a huge montage of drought
an impersonal district devoid of felicity
where neither the consonance of harmony nor the complicity
of dissonance exists I loom and blunder
in a blast-bright land not by the grace
of God and suns evolved but conjured into ominous being.
In this assembled place
where matter hums with coiled intent
and no mineral vegetable animal or element
pertains to another; where no thing ripens or decays, where life is reduced to existence
and existence to decor,
I find the birds especially intolerable.
These insolent incessant birds
loud bland indifferent feathered herds
as unrelated to this desert as the rocks and sand
as the cactus, creeks, creatures, weather, wind, and
I, yet breeding being dying in these regions
that I visit with a reaching eye; these gaudy legions
bold and practical as tourists,
flaunting detachment, wagging their
barnyard tails at my shocked seeking stare
twanging and harping as though I were not here
as if to say
Don’t bother with the salt Tweak our tailfeathers any day…
cocking a vulgar beak at me and my devotions
my barefoot Audubon-Saint Francis notions.
I cannot seduce these birds with love and a bread crumb, nor startle them,
nor silently and undiscovered come
upon a thicket-full
to listen, concealed by my own care
and skill and will while they are singing
Never never can I approach them found
and finding to hear full frolic voices mute
to not a decibel of sound
till the perilous pause dissolving
resolves to a decimal dazzle of scale
a sheer precarious fluting of greeting
a flickering miracled carol of Hail.
North of this neighborhood I have been quickened by such canticles.
I am no guest
of these unbirdly birds. They are not disposed to manifest
concern with my immediacy. There is no benison or ban
from them to me. As though invisible I am not even an
intruder, am neither enemy nor friend,
have no identity.
Aroint thee birds
though hexed I am not your familiar. Non-entity,
I need a fang, a tusk, a talon, a bellow, a hiss, a roar
(to un-bewitch me) one methodical
rattlesnake, an eager dinosaur,
an uncorrupted scorpion, a dedicated flea,
some single indigenous monster apt to acknowledge me.
Not even the essence of evil is unalloyed
in this indecent territory,
the temper of the wildest beast is cloyed
to brisk neutrality.
No mythic wings whir down this shallow sky
to conquer these chimeric ciphers that neither listen nor
I had expected residual souls in the local birds even at this
compass point. But environment is a factor difficult to alter or dismiss.
Birds in a vulnerable land
where there is sea to salt the sand
I rut and roost and rot and sing
occasionally on the wing