The Gray Catbird

The Gray Catbird
by Theodora Goss

The gray catbird, says Birds of Massachusetts,
is secretive: yesterday I saw it hiding
behind the leaves. I could never get a photo.
I stood and watched it in the sunlit forest,
wondering what it was, this slate-gray bird
with a black cap, as though it belonged to some order
of nuns, with small black eyes, a long, thin bill,
looking at me through the leaves as if to say
some things don’t belong to you, some things belong
only to themselves. Later I read the Chippewa
call it Bird that Cries with Grief. I wish it had cried;
I would have liked to hear it, not grieving of course,
but just to hear the sound, like a cat, which is why
we call it catbird. Instead I stood on a carpet
of marsh marigolds, looking for twenty minutes
under the trees with my camera, trying to capture
it on film, while it insisted on remaining silent
and secretive in the heart of the sunlit forest,
always hidden among the leafy branches,
always a little beyond my understanding.
As it remains, despite my identification
of its habitat, its migratory habits,
its Latin name.

Catbird on Virginia Creeper by Isaac Sprague

(The image is Catbird on Virginia Creeper by Isaac Sprague.)

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