When I was three,
My mother taught me to read,
Became playthings and playmates
As I sat in the back of the restaurant
Watching her work her dream to death.
Later, as I grew,
Family losses piled, heaped
Weighty upon the shoulders of a nine-year-old.
Escape, shelter, survival,
A path out of destruction.
And so, words stayed
For more years than I’d care to say.
But now here,
Or in early evening,
The warm sun blanketing
My skin as I fill the birdfeeders,
I hear words in the songs of birds.
Silly though it may seem,
The cardinals have much to say,
“It’s cheaper here. It’s cheaper here.”
To “Pretty, pretty, pretty.”
The mockingbirds chatter away
Announcements of “She’s here, she’s here, she’s here.”
And I’m not sure which bird continually asks,
“Wanna see, wanna see, wanna see a receipt?”
All the while, the Blue Jays squawk away,
Warning all the others,
“Stay away! Stay away!”
Then in the chittering of the squirrels,
I hear the demand,
“Where’s the food? Where’s the food?
You let the food run out! How dare you?”
As they scurry away,
Pretending, at least, to be afraid of me.
Among all the noise and chatter
All the words of birds and squirrels
One word, never felt before now,
I feel move within my chest,