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The Wren and His Children

ISSUE:  Spring 2000

Every morning when I sit on my porch
the wren balances on his house upside down
or sits on his favorite black walnut twig
and sings to me. His song is at least
three times as big as his body. He’s happy
to have carried moths to his brood,
their open red mouths at the entrance hole.
What he likes best, or they do,
are white moths the size of a quarter,
and he comes back every thirty seconds
or so with another (I’ve timed it),
as though he were piecing together
tiny bits of linen for a quilt, or
were an historian collecting precious
scraps of an ancient manuscript.
And then he sings, loudly:
“bubbling, exuberant” is how
the Field Guide describes it.
He seems to like the work for its own sake—
he never stops to gaze fondly at his children—
and in spring he or his offspring busily
dismantle an old nest twig by twig
and then use the old twigs to put
the nest back together again.

After a day’s work, when I sit on the porch
and smoke my cigar, the wren sings to me
as though giving an account of his day,
and once again I admire the animals,
how they never question their motives
and rarely doubt themselves.
How happy he is, or
if it isn’t happiness,
what is it?


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