There’s a touch of the travelling variety show
in the way they cause my dollar-store feeder
to buck over the heads of their associates
who scarf up what falls in the pivot and jab
of civic sparring that endears them to cranks.
They make me glad another exhausted July
has wrung itself out above my ravine as ten
seed bells are chewed to nothing in a few days
of wise-guy gobbling. So whose ravine is it?
And whose yard is roiling with blackbirds?
I assure you, I’m a squatter on this parcel
that tapers into pines, alders, and a beech
whose cantilevered lower branch they use
as a consulting perch from which to eye
tabbies too heat-frazzled to move a paw.
I’ll miss their deplorable manners the most.
The ten seed bells? Hyperbole. They don’t
eat more than any bunch of travelling birds
graced with brighter plumage. They plumb
the shadows and drag twilight over leaves.
I’ve torn into meals with the same rapacity
as their shrewd elders. And the juveniles,
who fledge inside the tubular supports
of traffic lights, take to familial haggling
with a cockiness I would do well to study.
Starlings Offer a Correction
Where does he get off claiming blackbirds
raise their young in the tubular supports
of traffic lights? No such thing occurs.
We inhabit those pipes, safe and dry,
one nest to a pipe mouth—revelers
gliding into cricket-filled waste lots
on our gob-stuffing adventures. Then
we’re back over four lanes of traffic,
turning what we’ve eaten into mush,
winging towards our hatchlings. See
how we stuff a couple of wing beats
into the last seconds before our toes
touch steel rims. Hubbub interlopers,
we serve notice on two-note blackbirds
skirmishing for seed in pensioners’ yards.
Peter Richardson of Gatineau, Quebec, was born in Norwalk, Connecticut and came to Canada in 1969. He has published four collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Bit Parts for Fools, was a finalist for the 2014 Archibald Lampman Award. An earlier collection, Sympathy for the Couriers, won the 2008 QWF’s A.M. Klein Award. His poems have appeared in The Fiddlehead, Poetry Magazine (Chicago), and Poetry Ireland Review among others."The Gleaners" was previously published in The Malahat Review 187 (2014).