You’re back again, bright bird who often came
when I emptied out the coffee grounds among
the annuals and the worms came up, red breast
beside the pink impatiens. After a year
of seeing nothing, doing almost nothing
apart from moving in, I step outside,
still homesick, far from home, and you appear:
you’re splashing in the puddles, pulling up
the worms. Bird of my own
lost garden, what are you doing here?
Last winter as we unpacked a cardinal
sat for a moment in the pines. I thought
he might have come from home where snow was falling
the afternoon we left. Then I remembered:
they take the frozen seeds, the icy berries—
they never have to leave. He wasn’t ours.
Not one but several. Always in a pair
or pair of pairs, the goldfinches are back
to match the yellow rose, the gold lantanas.
I almost lose them when they pass the sunflowers.
Wild, fluttering petals? No, they’ve reached the feeder.
And something else: the slender mockingbird
whose melodies astound me, flash of grey
and white in the pink crape myrtle near the porch.
Midsummer, and the tree is blossoming
and nearly faded now. I hadn’t looked.
Late afternoon: a gust, descending wings.
I’ve seen you in the snow but not in summer
stalking the chipmunks, sending the finches flying.
So you’ve arrived at last, or were you here,
waiting, until a joy, a rare abundance
should overtake the garden? Then you fall
over the finch’s nest. I should have known.
And in the woods this morning a commotion
of colors—orange, black, white. An oriole lights
on the willow oak, then on the broken fountain.
Bold, bright, conspicuous, quick—it has to be.
Almost before I see it, it disappears.
A hummingbird—oh, a tiny, tiny thing!
I have to squint to see it. Didn’t you say,
when I was staring over the precipice,
focus on something small . . .
They’ve found the fountain, stone boy, curly-haired,
riding a dolphin from whose mouth the water
spills to the clamshell pool: two cedar wax-wings
splashing the purple phlox, the blue verbenas.
And on the ground, alone, the mourning dove,
color of rain and shadow, voice of sorrow
among the lighter notes. An undertone.
Bluebird, building again in the same house
you found in spring, you have to fly across
my yard to get there, then to my neighbor’s pines
and down to your nesting box above the roses.
You never crossed my path in Michigan,
but here you are, a new and busy brightness,
diligent in your work. They say you come
three times, if you come at all, although each brood
will be a little smaller, and next summer
you may not come again. Today you clear
your old nest from the box as if you’re planning
to build another. Maybe you’ll settle in.