Out on the frost of dawn after the storm
has cleared the tableaux, a pair of grey
shrike-thrushes skitter about nearby
and do their winter call which can’t
be crammed into a bardic resonance.
Listen closely and they sing outside
their range. Listen closely and they say
much more in knowing their own vocabulary,
their own conjugations and declensions.
The invasiveness of observation to make
an avian artefact we can transport
to a birdless zone, a room with adequate
acoustics and a crowd to goad us on.
Or the scholar ticking off species
and their characteristics in the book
of prosodic effects, salient subject matter.
I prefer—in all my culpability—to let
them be, and swerve as they take aim
for insects stirred up by this signing-off
on a winner’s potential, though one can’t be
sure for all the modelling. And summer
will change tunes in ways unknown, and patterns
of behaviour will slip away. Science worn out
just keeping up. Grey shrike-thrushes sing chaos
to its knees, snap anatomies in sharp bills. There’s
nothing certain about where next meals come from
and the nesting drive is never far away, and I am
in the way or changing the nature of the wood stack,
stirring up insects in the early morning awakenings
that can make all the difference.