—for Elizabeth Bishop
Tuwee, calls a bird near the house,
Tuwee, cries another, downhill in the woods.
No wind, early September, beeches and pines,
Sumac aflame, tuwee, tuwee, a question and a faint
But definite response, tuwee, tuwee, as if engaged
In a conversation expected to continue all afternoon,
Where is?—I’m here?—an upward inflection in
Query and in response, a genetic libretto rehearsed
Tens of thousands of years beginning to leave its indelible trace,
Clawprint of language, ritual, dense winged seed,
Or as someone were slowly buttoning a shirt.
I am happy to lie in the grass and listen, as if at the dawn of reason,
To the clear communal command
That is flinging creaturely will into existence,
Designing itself to desire survival,
Then the bird near me, my bird, stops inquiring, while the other
Off in the woods continues calling faintly, but with that upward
Inflection, I’m here, I’m here,
I’m here, here, the call opens a path through boughs still clothed
By foliage, until it sounds like entreaty, like anxiety, like life
Imitating the pivotal move of Whitman’s "Out of the Cradle,"
Where the lovebird’s futile song to its absent mate teaches the child
Death—which the ocean also whispers—
Death, death, death it softly whispers,
Like an old crone bending aside over a cradle, Whitman says,
Or the like the teapot in Elizabeth Bishop’s grandmother’s kitchen,
Here at one end of the chain of being,
That whistles a song of presence and departure,
Creating comfort but also calling for tears.
- Alicia Suskin Ostriker
The cardinals and robins are out now, establishing territory and calling for mates. Some days, it starts as early as 3:30-4:00 in the morning. Being woken up by this used to annoy me, but have gotten used to it. Now that the weather's warm enough, have taken to wrapping myself in a blanket, sitting down (hopefully out of view of everyone high enough to see me/be threatened by me) on the floor of the top-level balcony and just listening to what they're saying. Eventually, am going to have to compare what I'm memorizing with Cornell's birdsong archive to get an idea as to what's going on.