Birds Are One Music of the World

by Al Maginnes

Because they are beautiful

and small, with brassy songs

and feathers that host the entire

range of visible color, I could

listen or watch without any need

to know their names. My wife reads

markings and colors, can tell

one from the other, which is native

and which migrating or lost.

Perhaps I should not be content

with how little of the world

I can name. When my friend’s hands

no longer let him play flute

or sort out chords on the piano,

he read in a chair beside

a floor-to-ceiling window. Soon

he knew the species and song

of each bird crowding the feeders

in his yard. Sometimes he would scat

a few bars of bird song

the way he scatted jazz licks,

music replacing music, his song,

from a body slowly learning

the inhospitalities of gravity,

imitating those smaller bodies

still blessed with music and flight.