Strange Birds

In the summer we sat out by the reservoir
and watched the water shrink.
The city sent us notices
about leafy spurge and spotted knapweed.

Sometimes we mowed lawn,
picked apples, Elberta peaches;
canned some, saw the rest rot,
the grass to our knees, the driveway clear.

Hummingbirds stopped by —
and jays, cowbirds, and robins —
so many even I, fifty years, tired of them,

remembered the old Indian
who taught me to bury birds
so I could dig them up
stripped of feather and skin
and learn their bones.

But not a word about the season

how when the cold came
they had all moved on,
and now, just the prints
of deer and foxes in the snow.

So starting out this morning
I disturbed you shaking in a branch
and only heard the sound that you made leaving.
Something I had never heard before:

a cry the snow the pines.