We see the birds in the morning, too, soon after sunrise, looking like whole notes on a staff perched on the wires. The pavement is spattered white. “Brash” is kind. Great-tailed grackles are aggressively extraverted, nature’s tummlers, dancing on the hood of the car when I park, hammering at leaves and needles caught under the wipers. They peck at fast-food bags, discarded fruit and candy wrappers like fastidious clean-up crews.
I’m supposed to disapprove of the noise and filth but can’t work up much outrage. I admire the grackles’ swagger and nerve, the way they’ve adapted to our impertinence and the purple iridescence of the males. Elizabeth Jennings titled a poem “Bird Study” (Collected Poems, 2012) not as a synonym for ornithology. Rather, she refers to a bird’s intellectual capacity, its powers of concentration. A bird is the speaker, as in a poem by Les Murray. Here is the fourth and final stanza:
“I am obsessed with energy
I never touch. I am alive
To what I only hear and see,
The sweep, the sharp, the drive.”