Jul/Aug 2020  •   Poetry


by Sharon McDermott


What changes now that I no longer call them
small brown birds? Now I've studied them—

this one's gold-flecked wings or that one's tail
pointing pertly skyward?

Now I've sorted

song from song,
beak from beak, flight from flight,

to their glossary of difference?

Nothing changes in the world when I say
Vesper Sparrow,

Bunting, Carolina
Wren or Lark. They're still sloppy
in the seeds,
skittish with new shadows. They still drop

from gutters, swell the Rose of Sharon's branches
early morning, late evening:

Seaside Sparrow, Cape Sable.

They're on their way and half-
past Icarus,
squabbling over suet.

How does it transform the crowd

to recognize
the individual? I once heard
someone say,

Call it a "field"
and no one fights against
the men who gut it to make their parking lot.

And so I call it "meadow," try to know

the names of
its inhabitants—the bee-
drunk hyssop,

buttercups and daisy fleabane,

Echinacea and clover, wild geraniums.
A crowd of wind-tossed colors live to drink

the sun.

Those jittery throngs—no longer mud-
blurred browns
and tans. But Gold Crowned, Cinnamon,
White-Rumped Snowfinch, and

        the world feels far less lonely.