SOME EMPTY SKYThis was the year the birds didn’t come, not even
in the blizzard, snow falling five inches
per hour, nearly three feet, turning the landscape
white, white, white. Years ago, crows would swoop
down, sleek as beef cattle, as soon as I opened
the back door, zooming in on the salmon skins,
globs of chicken fat, hunks of gristle; punctuating
the air with their harsh caws. This year, the scraps
just sit there. Before, the cherry tree was full
of cardinals, olive-green and blood-red, dramatic
against the snow. This year, absence. Fox, hawk,
climate change, who knows? And many years back,
whole flocks of evening grosbeaks: stoplight
yellow, black-and--white wings, spectacular birds.
You could stand for hours watching them
at the feeder. My friend Henry and I would be
on the phone, talking about poetry, as the snow
came down, line after line. Have you seen any
grosbeaks? he’d ask. And I’d tell him how many.
Now the birds are gone, and his mind has flown.
We go out to lunch, but he can’t remember
what he’s ordered, or what kind of beer he likes.
This is not migration’s normal path. He wanders
through his house, clutching a yellow pencil,
not sure what to do with it, but
absolutely certain it is necessary.