Do Birds Sing from Sheer Exuberance

Paul Jenkins

Or is it border-patrol duty dawn to dusk

This morning they began like a water-glass choir
Multiplied by ten in the birches along the river

Until a robin on the back lawn shoved another off
A square foot of grass and two hummingbirds at the hanging

Basket of fuchsias dive-bombed each other’s head

Now I’m looking in the field guide to see what it says
Is the proper term for birdsong is it calling perhaps

Or something more chest-thumping or military or both
But the guide resorts to voice talk about noncommittal

Ti-dee-di-di and wheep wheep wheep

Not counting the catbird’s come-hither stay-away
Like a melodeon on meth like a gleeful pickpocket

Who suddenly spurts from between three leaves
Leaving all that burbling and cheeping behind

And now that it’s flown in the distance I can hear

Mourning doves reciting The Joy of Grieving
And practicing its advice Give in to your sadness

Let loss wash over you until you’re cleansed
Which seems to be taking approximately forever

Because they haven’t stopped giving in to it yet

Until nearly noon when the July sun clobbers
The whole air from sky high to lying prone

And the silence that ensues is so ungodly loud
It rhymes with the brave new sound of war

AKA stay out of sight leave a lighter footprint

Featuring drones the length of a magpie in flight
Steered only by a microchip the targeted victim

Standing on a rooftop smoking a cigarette
Dozing almost the sun flat on his face

Until late afternoon when the birds start up again

At dusk signaling music’s finale
As night inches up the corkscrewing locust’s branch

And the birds shut down in their inky sleep