For the Birds: A Whimsical Poem About Birdwatching, Feeders, and Squirrels (Blast Them!)

Over the last few weeks, I have been reading some incredible collections of poetry, including Ocean Vuong's Night Sky with Exit Wounds and Ross Gay's Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. (I'll have more to say on these collections in the coming weeks.)

These poets, through their work, have challenged me to experiment with rhyme and meter, and to inject more whimsy into the language and imagery of my poems.

The following poem was inspired by the birds outside my kitchen window -- and the squirrels that raid their feeder. I'm certain it falls far short of the beauty that Vuong and Gay achieve with their words, but as someone who loves to write, I have a choice to make: either I can give up, or I can use the long, intimidating shadow cast by others' work as a cool refuge from life's hot blasts of disappointment, meanwhile writing away and perhaps, someday, happening upon a string of words that stand tall enough, and cast a shadow long enough, to serve as a comfort for someone else. -CS


Illustration by Charlie Shifflett

Illustration by Charlie Shifflett

For the Birds

My feathered friends, I think I read the disappointment in your cries.
Please rest assured I’ve done all I can, though I still must apologize.

Squirts of WD-40 stain the cast-iron pole,
machine gun blasts of water from the grassy knoll,

anti-squirrel contraptions with 90-day risk-free guarantees – 
all have failed to keep the little buggers from eating from your seed.

They hurtle down from branches, clearly with intent
to occupy the feeder like they pay the rent.

With front-row seats to their circus act, surely you’re as ticked as I – 
that these Evel Knievel-rodents seem to need no wings to fly.

© 2016 Charlie Shifflett