Gray Catbird · Lock 39 Trailhead

Gray Catbird on the Nest

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by Theresa Brightman

If you hear a mewling cry, between a
human child and a disappointed cat,
in the dense shrubs of your yard,

and see a flash of rust
under a handful-cloud of slate grey,
leave her be.

She is friendly but shy, transitory,
fierce in defense.
If you could ask her,

she would tell you
she does nothing heroic.
It is what her people do.

One thousand miles,
from south to north then south again,
following budding trees in the spring

to a fresh hold of twigs in the undergrowth
where she raises her babies
and fights off blue jays and grackles.

And when the brown-headed cowbird
gets up to the old cuckoo tricks,
her sharp, dark eye watches.

She jabs the intruder’s eggs
and rolls them from the nest.
She knows invasion.

She does not proceed with irrational fury.
Nor does she ignore the threat,
waiting until danger blossoms and fruits.

She acts, protecting
the innocents in her care, and ends
the parasite incursion before it begins.

She would tell you
she does nothing heroic.
It is what her people do.

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Traveling Stanzas community arts projects bring poetry to people’s everyday lives through innovative methods and digital platforms.