What to make of the smattering of birds
that jot into the cedar, and out and in,
all the while clanging their complex chimes.
They alternate beak-scraping branch tips with
working shadow back into their wings—
tipsy clerics who’ve found
a cheery religion in browns and blacks,
a family of gleaners that rattles along.

Companions here on autumn’s stoop,
I could swipe one out of the air in a sec
to get the closest look at
whatever stubble it’s woven from,
but all that exuberance would burst in my hand.
Music, brought down by study, stops.

© 1995, John Marshall

John Marshall is a co-owner and operator of OPEN BOOKS: A POEM EMPORIUM, a bookstore dedicated to poetry and poetry-related titles; is one of the editors of Fine Madness, a twelve-year-old literary magazine focusing on poetry; and he has published poetry in Seattle Review, Hubbub, Crab Creek Review, Boston Literary Review, and Pavement (Iowa).