Today I read there are people who net pigeons in New York City and drive them away in minivans. Where do they take them? Here, in the country, the dawn is empty of sound. Now and then, a pair of flycatchers darts across the lake. A robin rests on the lawn studying my next-door neighbor who is riding around on his lawnmower masticating worms, slugs, grubs, grass, frogs, all their eggs and the footprints of his tiny little granddaughter who runs before the machine trailing a balloon. Four Senatorial black crows shoot across the blades, scream off to the beach where thousands more convene. In the evening, the bunnies show up and my next-door neighbor shoots them from his porch. He also shoots the cormorants nesting on the island off his boat dock because they slime the teak on his 1924 Chris Craft Cruiser that he drives across the bay twice a year for dinner. Also, the raccoon families residing close to his garbage, these he catches in have-a-heart traps and carries them off to shoot in the woods. We still have racoons, but my sky fills with bird song. Sixty-eight percent of the songbirds have vanished. I have been wondering about their replacements. I mention this to my neighbor, who has invited me over for a cocktail. My neighbor doesn’t understand why I am pessimistic. No birds were missing at his place, he tells me. Ditto for the bats and mosquitoes. I ask him, how then does he explain the muteness of the dawn? The lack of Birds on the Wires? The lonely morning dove mourning on my roof? Hasn’t he read Ferlinghetti, I ask, smirking, because I know he believes all poets, like annoying animals, should be shot.
They were putting up the statue of St. Francis in front of the church of St.Francis
in the City of San Francisco In a little side street just off the avenue
where no birds sing
and a lot of old Italians were standing all around on the little side street
just off the Avenue watching the wily workers who were hoisting up the statue
with a chain and a crane
and other implements
and a lot of young reporters in button-down clothes were taking down the words of one young priest who was propping up the statue
with all his arguments
and all the while, while no birds sang any St. Francis Passion
and while the lookers kept looking up at Saint Francis
with his arms outstretched
to the birds who weren’t there
a very tall and very purely naked young virgin
with very long and very straight straw hair
wearing only a very small bird’s nest
in a very existential place
kept passing through the crowd all the while
and up and down the steps in front of St. Francis
her eyes downcast all the while
and singing to herself
My neighbor’s daughter came to my garden to help me pick off the red beetles eating my lilies. She’s hiding from her father because he is teaching her child to step on newborn baby voles. They went for a walk in the woods where he demonstated how to do this. I imagine a giant vole with a mouthful of poisoned teeth scurries up the path to the porch where her father sits drinking gin and tonic. The rodent will climb up his legs, hoist itself on his shoulders and squirt a stream of baby voles up his nostrils.
Then all the songbirds that used to be will open their beaks to sing their hallelujah for everyone in the world but my neighbor to hear.