A pair of starlings under the eaves
is for us, out here in the hills,
a novel occurrence. Though
with my gaze drawn so often lately
toward the northeast, in imagination visiting
that high bog set in a ring of mountains
& the nearby hollow full of ancient hemlocks—
blank spaces bristling with arrows
on the highway engineer’s map—
with all that on my mind, it takes me
a while to notice these two
new tenants, noisy as they are.
But the male starling’s a ventriloquist, I swear
he can throw his voice. And his range—odd
rasping cries, hollow knocks with thrush-
like runs dubbed in . . . I wouldn’t have believed it
if I hadn’t caught him in the act, beak ajar.
Black wings flopped & rattled with each
convulsive ripple of the nape,
spilling iridescence in the noonday sun.
As if he’d swallowed some dark rainbow
& was trying to bring it back up.
The journal I’m always meaning to keep
could well carry the headline Year of the Starlings,
were it not for this other thing
that’s been robbing me of sleep:
nothing but an engineer’s wet dream,
an impossible outcome, I try & tell myself,
even as night after restless night fixes it
more & more firmly in my mind’s eye.
Yesterday morning we all heard,
quite distinctly, an infant wailing
from somewhere in the middle of the sky.
I run around the house & there sits
the starling on the ridge of the roof,
head cocked to one side like a diabolical robin,
waiting for some untimely nightcrawler
to make a move.