of fledglings quiet women of the zoo’s
Bird Rehab Center fetched from fallen nests.
My tasks were just to feed them, keep them warm
and shoo away the cats that gathered on
the balcony above our lush courtyard.
Mockers, jays, tough proletarian birds
grew fast and pulsed away; though even as
I brought more tiny eaters home in boxes,
the grown ones gathered every morning, into
summer, on the railing of the balcony
at 6:15 a. m. , and squawked until
I stumbled out and dropped a pinch of moist
cat food down each screamer’s gullet, to bid
it pop upon the air and disappear.
Then I padded in and fed the babies.
Those were good years in a marriage most would judge
a good one, all and all. We worked hard and laughed
a lot, pursuing separate interests, and came
together every night with no agenda
but the comfort of our coupling, and sleep.
When weak ones shriveled, I grew despondent,
isolating them until they died or
rallied, and when they quit their begging, and when
their hideous small faces—the bulging
monster eyes lidded with veins—dangled back
upon their too-delicate necks, I cupped
them in one hand and stroked them with a finger
until the last perceptible breaths had ceased.