FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS

That morning in Westport–
our first Spring at the new house
–you went out one time at dawn
with your new binoculars
and Peterson’s Guide in your pocket–
you who grew up in a city apartment
in the Bronx, where birds were either
pigeons or sparrows. Learning by the book
the way you’d already taught yourself
to make a cheese soufflé, mend
the window-screens, sail a boat.

And came back to wake me
apologetic, urgent: You’ve got
to come–there’s a tree
full of the most amazing birds–
they’re not in the book…
Leaning over me, you smelled
of grass clippings and morning,
your chinos soaking wet with dew.

I got up, threw on my clothes
and we ran together up Main Road
afraid they might have flown.
But there they were–a big elm
alive with them, glittering
like a school of fish. Diving
and jostling and whistling
by the hundreds, their bodies brilliant
with iridescent spots–a great flock
of Common Starlings…
Our legion of promises, shining
green and silver in the morning sun.

In memory of Arthur