A murder of crows strafes a singing
plagiary of mockingbirds in the neighbor’s tree.
Black wings spread, claws extended,
ancient cries of war and fear, the battle
cracking branches and boughs, explosive flights
of retreat. Not invested in who wins
or who loses because we know
eventually everyone loses and those left
must go on despite the pain. Still, we cheer
the crows when they are winning, and we cheer
the mockingbirds when they careen back to counterattack.
Suburban warfare otherwise erupts within walls,
behind doors and curtained windows. Meanwhile,
we were killing time getting high
watching from the wide open garage, the heavybag
still swinging on the chain, the tired leather
stained with combinations of spent rage
and the savage shame of our limitations.
Our sweatslick gloves slough off small pools
of our hopeless efforts to amend our shattered egos
onto the oil stained concrete. The practice of defeat
strengthens our resolve to keep up appearances
built on mended and stitched constructions
without having read the instructions. No matter.
The structure will stand upright out of habit.
The permanence of humility has its own rewards.
What matters is what you’ll do when
you’re not sparring with your brothers.
When histories and memories false and true
and unclear of their distinctions
rattle clangphonic in your chest,
crying in your soul like the 4 o’clock train
belting across the busy intersection,
you attempt to decode the passing graffiti,
to decipher messages as punchdrunk as the heavybag,
stories coming from elsewhere, a place
revised and rewritten, a place where secrets
declare themselves only to each other,
despite our curious intrusions.
Learn this one thing: this train full of the
casualties of conflicts won and lost
will never let you get to the other side in time
to decide what to do with the information.
Wait it out and do what you can
to forget it means anything at all.
It’s always too late to make peace after the war begins,
and when it ends the resulting peace will never be as
it was before the fighting broke out and trust was trashed
like the torn and shredded avenues of a bombed out city.
Everything will depend upon how deeply
steely resentment can be buried under forgiveness.
If any forgiveness is left to be had.
In the end, the crows win and take over the tree.
But the mockingbirds get away to survive another day.
With time, they inevitably, out of habit, elsewhere
find a way to rebuild and to sing the very same song.
Image from Flickr.