To a Mockingbird

(20 August - 18 October 1989) after Percy Bysshe Shelley

If you could understand me, you would be a spirit and not merely a bird mocking my words, unless I were mocking you. You understand the rock thrown from the back porch. You understand the jay, the sparrow, the cowbird, speaking territorial squabble for domination. Alone in the small hours, you fill the neighborhood with a continuous novelty, each melody sharp and loud, more than most of us can bear. We would rather listen to a human voice, even over and over, which we could choose to ignore, but we have no control over you. You twitch your banded tail. From the top of your pole, you lift yourself into the air. Restless, untiring, you add a new song to your medley. When I see a mockingbird, it’s always you. you call your mate, who never comes; you project your territory with your shrill voice. Do you sing in pride, in pleasure? Do you feel love? Can you understand love without knowing the tenderness of embrace or kiss? Without feather, wing, or beak, I can not know. If you are a bird, you are also a spirit, just out of reach, bound in penance to the earth where you must cry out long after you are heard.