(Observed 15 May – 31 October 2014)
Mid-May a change was undeniable:The robin which inhabited my view
Fell largely silent at his treetop post.
He still spent hours there, eyeing his domain,
Darting away to feed and soon returning,
But now his silence like a Trappist monk’s
Contrasted starkly with his past months’ song,
So liquid-graceful and unstoppable
Like a blithesome hillside brook leaping its way
From stone to stone and flinging flashings of
The sun’s rich light back at its globe enstoned
In the cobalt gesso of the year’s young sky.
Through the long stretches of his sentry-spell,
As if in vows, his only song was but
A few brief notes, half-hearted, monochrome.
That understated mumble, an aside,
Held little beauty and was swallowed by
Apologetic silence like a sigh.
Most probably his young had now been reared
And if no second brood had been begun
He felt less anxious to assert control
Of feeding rights, but what a sea-change from
His sky-enthralling song of earlier months,
Irrupted by his body-seizing shout,
That geiger-counter tic repeated madly
Which clacked a warning to marauding males!
Be it his undersong or braggart “tac,”
He stood as clear atop the maple tree,
Foregrounded by the May sky’s watered blue
And knocked by passing breezes like a guy,
As if he sat upon my hand and sang.
His bright red jumper like a woven flame
Flurried above his cream-down underdraws,
And even across the air-and-sunshine gulf
Which kept us separate I saw his throat
Like a little bellows pumping as he sang.
However, by month’s end he’d truanted
And all through June I wondered if he’d fought
His way into another robin’s ground
Or, bloodied, had been struck by the clawed club
Of a cat’s flailing paw. Then he’d reappear,
Most often morn and dusk, and briefly sing
His thin disjointed notes, then brace and dash
With stiffly rapid wings into the gloom
Before sunrise or that at sun’s repose.
And once at noon on a warm and shining day,
Pregnant with promise and the year’s lush hope,
I saw him on a cypress tree which crouched
Heavily lopped beneath my bedroom window.
He clung to the tree’s fronded fingers, busy
With song and fiery peering at his lands,
When foolishly dawdling in the soft-silk air
A fly nipped past. Pausing his bits of song,
The robin leapt and turned mid-air with push
Of toughly-working wings. His open beak
Homed and snapped, and working his wings again
He twisted, sinking to his initial perch,
Resuming song before his wings were stowed.
A mere five seconds, as it felt, had passed;
A stroller would not have noticed any hitch
In his discord musings, yet with fine control –
An acrobat enrapt with exploits far
From the trapeze’s safety-giving bar –
He’d trapped a morsel in the day’s non-end
Prospecting to unearth the flies and grubs
Which staunched the panging in his belly’s bag.