Wanderer [Informal Catalogue of Starlings]


Association: starlings are ugly, screeching birds
angry and flat in the backdrop
Concurrent reality: starlings are no uncomplicated class,
no single color
but they are beautiful


Hildebrandt’s Starling is orange-bellied
and iridescent from wing to dark wing.
It is African
a war and famine bird
exotic like parrots.

I have a picture of myself with a parrot on my head
and a picture of my mother with chickens on hers.
I am a fierce balancing act
she is laughing.

In 1890, the American Acclimatization Society
introduced the Common Starling to New York City
honoring Shakespeare. In 2008,
1.7 million were killed for being a nuisance.

I remember standing in my parents’ room, holding the woodpecker’s eggs
in my cupped hands
when they broke.
The tiny shells and dying birds
were so much stranger than the hole in the wall, the sunlight coming through.

Micronesian Starlings follow humans
to seabird nests and eat the eggs of flushed birds – ugliness maybe?

Larry and Crooked Neck Nelly
were my Muscovy ducks (see definition: ugly). I went one night
to change their water, and found Nelly
with her head frozen under a glassy surface of ice.

The Bali Starling nests in sugar palm trees. Since its discovery
only 100 years ago,
the friendly bird has been poached nearly to extinction. After the royal black tips,
and blue-skin etched eyes
it is white as a dove.

One day, Larry couldn’t stand up anymore. He was fat,
straining to stand in the dust, then only wobbling.
My mother tried to make me watch and learn the end of misery
when she chopped off his head.

Wislawa Szymborska says poets are inspired, but they are curious first
full of love and imagination
as gardeners or doctors must be. She reminds me of a naturalist
the first of us to practice the scientific method faithfully
and so deliberately
naming, cataloguing. Exploration.

Starlings belong to a superfamily
with flycatchers, chats,
thrushes and dippers. They can emulate car alarms and human speech patterns.


Yet, language is greater than utterance. I am offering what death I know,
what life. As if every time we find little blue shells dropped and broken
it signals success
and the delicate is then [now] resilient.


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