When the red cardinal comes to the window ledge, I feed him
sunflower seeds that's brought from places that I know
and he will never see: waste fields far west
drear country that I own
nor can I relinquish it--my brain, that is, my brain that holds
this lifetime setting in a city street. The cardinal lifts his crest
seed he's never seen upon a flower, knows how to split them,
flies off, and presently, it being spring, his voice floats down,
with many other
trills and soft whistles all intent on shepherding
some cardinal lady into this year's nest. The sound
comes down to me. I think upon these seeds now being spun
by some adroit bird magic into notes that move
more than a bird's heart. Oh dear God, how far
the golden yellow of the sunflowers now, far off as youth, far off
by twice a thousand miles, and faces lost
deep in the sunflower thickets underneath the loam.
This bird sings on
high in the apple tree, the notes
sprinkle the ground like petals, like all springs
that went awry a score of years ago and twist the heart
with sweet blind pain and unresolved regret.
I tell myself
it is the seeds that sing, that, without seeds,
the cardinal could not sing, and seeds are brought
up from the leaf mould underneath the dark, formed, shaped
within a flower's heart, encased and strewn
for any bird, like those piano scrolls we pumped at in our youth,
the music sounding
all through the house, so here the brisk red cardinal
sings a bright sunflower song dissolving
the sullen silence of this eastern spring. I think this bird a miracle
to so transform a seed, but then I think the flower
also a miracle and so work down to earth, the one composer
no one has ever seen but all have heard.
"Cheer," I say it on the page, "cheer, cheer," my fingers stiff.
I eat one of his sunflower seeds and try again.