by Angela Patten

A gang of noisy grackles at the feeder
bullies the small birds away.
Fierce as Vikings, they dive bomb
each other, Prussian blue heads
shimmering in the light.

Next the starlings, black feathers
cool as leather jackets
of The Jets from West Side Story,
sporting vicious yellow beaks
like dangling cigarettes.

We who profess to love birds
abhor the grackles, starlings, jays,
those raucous squawkers
scrounging peanut-studded suet,
black oil sunflower and thistle seed.

No sense of decorum, restraint
or the fitness of things.

We prefer small brown flycatchers
and finches garbed in olive-grey
that daintily select a single seed,
then fly away to crack it open
on a private branch.

Polite, well-behaved birds
that know their proper place
as we observe our own invisible fences,
nod guarded greetings to those neighbors
who maintain the flowerbeds
but keep their distance.