A Fighting Chance (Written January 26, 2018)

A Fighting Chance

My whistle failed to elicit a response.
I tried again. A chickadee answered
from inside the forsythia bush.
A dozen pigeons, neatly lined up

On the top bar of the swing set,
stared at me in a calculated display
of indifference. They knew what
I was up to, and what they needed
to do, to get what they wanted.

On top of the house next door
another dozen waited, expectantly.
It was a thin whistle, which left them
guessing as to my wishes. Was I trying
to welcome them, or scare them off?

I re-shaped my mouth and tried again.
High in the spruce tree crows cawed
impatiently, angrily. From the window
of the upstairs bedroom my wife watched.
A blue jay, on a chair in the neighbor’s

Backyard, made a sound like a yodel,
melodious and seductive, before reverting
to the more familiar shrill cry, like a rusty
clothesline. A male pheasant, with its white
ring around the neck, hid in plain sight

Behind the japonica bush, sure
of its camouflage. If I moved slowly,
I hoped the bird would not fly away
in a thundering fright. I wanted
the pheasant, along with any starlings

And chickadees that might be nearby,
to have a fighting chance at the feed
(black sunflower seeds, wild bird mix,
peanuts in the shell, left over crusts
of bread broken into bite-sized pieces)

When I cast it, by the handful, across
the white plastic table by the back fence
and onto the ground, before the pigeons
descended en masse. Although, as my
wife had often reminded me, pigeons

Need to eat too, like all the other birds,
if we don’t want them to die. The cold
weather, in and of itself, will kill off
more than a few. Don’t be so stingy.

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