after Carol Ann Duffy’s “Prayer”

 

Dear Audubon Society:

I would like to participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count,
your annual citizen-science project that tracks the migra-
tion and population of native species. I have a few questions:
Why only in February? Do dead birds count? What about
caged birds? Should I look beyond my own backyard?

Sincerely,

A Watcher

 

*

 

How do we identify the birds we see? Some

confuse fledglings, juveniles, adults. Some days.

Most nights. Rain swallows the notes, although

the call always ends with a cry. Flap, flap, glide. How do we

number our sorrows? If we count sparrows, crows, we cannot

forget black-hooded martins. Pray

for the Baltimore oriole, say a

finch will carry the weight of our prayer

on its wings. Say a mockingbird matters, utters

its echo to the leaves, gifts its throat to heaven itself.

 

From Hunger Mountain Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras, which you can purchase here, or consider a two-year subscription for $18.

Photo credit: “Seven red birds” by Mason Shreve.