At the Bird Sanctuary

by Susanna Lang

A man with a baseball cap
and a gap between his front teeth
thinks he can speak bird

but when he calls
the sparrows stop singing—
white-throated, white

crowned, Lincoln’s, chipping,
junco, vesper, lark, clay
colored, savannah, fox sparrow—

half-hidden shapes
among leaves that curl
and crumble toward their fall.

Come spring, these trees
will recall a few notes
at first, then more;

the returning birds
will take their turn.
Even we, dumb beasts,

might feel the stirrings
of something we have mostly
forgotten. Even this man

could learn a word or two
of the language he is only
pretending to speak now.

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