Dawn, With Cardinals Poem By Jeffrey Levine
After separating from Penelope, Ulysses
takes a smallish cottage out of town,
bounded by deep woods on one side, a golf course
on the other where children sled or startle frogs,
depending on the season.
Crows strut their turf beneath the plum trees,
furl their capes and bob like drunks.
Of the night birds, owls map the taller pines
with their iridescent eyes and moon hens
peck at drops of evening dew.
When the divorce is done, he’ll move
to an island some miles out,
where he may settle on a narrow road
beside a spit of sand—beyond that, sea.
He could earn a modest pension
crafting bird feeders from mill scraps,
keep a brace of hunting dogs for company
and rake the silt for clams and oysters at low tide.
For now, he contents himself
recording local bird calls,
but forgets them quickly as he learns, save
the cardinal’s song, a slight and mournful chirping
heard each morning just outside his porch.
And always the same two birds—
she quarrelsome, he quiet or detached or maybe
at his helplessness to make a difference. Or, cocksure
he does, you see it in the ebony beak, crimson breast.
Look, the birdbath is full of cool clear water and still
she carries on like that, sharp
staccato chirps, high pitched, unwavering.
He with flutters but no sound, something holding on
inside him, something faintly chipped.
Not that Ulysses planned to wake so early
every morning. Sometimes you don’t believe
in ritual for days or weeks, until it’s a proven thing,
but here it is, persistent and regular.
Ulysses lets dawn filter through the screened porch.
First no light, then light.
First no birds, then song.
No wind; wind.