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Feature Story
Illustration of a bird
In Verse

A portfolio of new poems


Finch
I keep a crooked wooden bowl
half full of birdseed in the garden,
where the siskins and the finches,
crossbills, cowbirds, chickadees
and red-winged blackbirds meet.
Each day among the finches
there is one -- a female house finch,
Carpodacus mexicanus, I believe --
who must have tangled with a predator,
or maybe with a truck.

Not one among the others acts
concerned. No one seems, in fact,
to notice the black cavity that once
was her right eye, the shattered
stump that used to be her upper beak.

And no one gawks or whispers
at the awkward sidewise motion
that enables her to eat. And no one
mocks, crunching a sunflower seed,
her preference for millet.

Where ostracism, charity or pity
might have been, there is reality
instead. I mean that their superlative
indifference is a kind of moral
beauty, as perfect as the day.

If the red-tailed hawk comes by,
or the neighbor's cat, they mention
that to one another and are gone.
They also say hello; they say I am;
they say We are ; they say Let's finch

and make more finches. But I never
hear them talk of one another.
They speak of what they are, not who
they do or do not wish to be.
That is a form of moral beauty

too, as perfect as the day. Which is
to say they sing. By nothing
more than being there and being
what they are, they sing.
They sing. And that is that.
-- Robert Bringhurst

Meeting the Fox
When I met the fox today -- such living
  gold in its eyes --
    neither of us
      moved though only

one of us was instantly taken up with
  admiration. Its legs were
    braced in their motion
      of sudden stop,

its ears were pricked forward
  to hear what my language might be,
    but I said
      nothing, there was no word for the

hope I had that we
  could be friends. Behind it
    the hillside, then the woods,
      then the entire universe.

I stood as still as a rock.
  I didn't know what to do.
    Then I thought, oh well,
      why not try, and I

held out my hands
  in friendship, and instantly,
    with a sharp bark, a very
      decisive negative,

on its narrow and elegant feet,
  back up the hillside
    and into that other world
      it flew.
           -- Mary Oliver

The Vanishing Bee
Wrecking the Rockies
Paradise Drowned


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Illustrations: Daniel Chang

OnEarth. Summer 2006
Copyright 2006 by the Natural Resources Defense Council